Adolescent delta-8-THC and marijuana use in the U.S.

Many of today’s cannabis products are dangerously high in THC, and teens are using them.

In March 2024, a survey was published in the peer-reviewed medical journal JAMA that measured how high school seniors in the U.S. used delta-8-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and marijuana. Delta-8-THC is derived synthetically from the hemp plant, not from marijuana, which contains delta-9 THC.

The authors of this survey were Alyssa F. Harlow, PhD, an epidemiologist studying the public health impact of vaping; Richard A. Miech, PhD, a co-investigator of Monitoring the Future (a study of the behaviors, attitudes, and values of Americans from adolescence through adulthood); and Adam M. Leventhal, PhD, a licensed clinical psychologist specializing in addiction. The purpose of the survey was to identify how many 12th graders in the U.S. had used delta-8-THC and how many had used marijuana. The authors also set out to measure whether certain factors—like sociodemographics and state cannabis policies—affected usage.

The survey participants comprised 2,186 randomly selected 12th graders across 27 states in the U.S. The students were asked to self-report whether they had used delta-8-THC and marijuana at all in the past 12 months—and if so, how many times they’d used it. Also self-reported were the students’ sex, race, ethnicity, parental education level, and census region. Other factors were considered in the study too, like whether delta-8-THC was regulated in the student participants’ state, or whether marijuana was legal in their state.

The survey results indicated that 30.4% of the high school seniors had used marijuana. Results also showed that 11.4%—around 249 students—reported using delta-8 THC. This percentage was higher in states that hadn’t legalized marijuana. It was also higher in states that didn’t have delta-8-THC regulations, meaning there was no oversight or limits on the potency of delta-8 products. Students who reported using delta-8 THC had done so at least 10 times in the past year.

Recent studies have shown that users of delta-8-THC have experienced adverse effects, including psychosis. Dr. Elizabeth McCord, an Emory University Hospital Addiction Center psychiatrist, has suggested that using delta-8-THC even just once can cause permanent brain damage.
The survey authors concluded that usage was high enough to warrant more attention to policies and public health efforts regarding delta-8-THC use.

To read about the survey in more detail, visit this page.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *