What Is Delta-9 THC? Is It Dangerous?

Delta-9 THC

Have you ever wondered what makes cannabis so potent? What’s the secret behind that unique ‘high’ sensation? The answer lies in a little compound known as Delta-9 THC.

But that’s not all that it does. Let’s take a look at what it is, what it does and if it is something that you should include in your regimen.

What is THC?

Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is one of the major cannabinoids found in cannabis plants, it is psychoactive and responsible for the “high” of cannabis. 

Tetrahydrocannabinol was first identified and synthesized in a laboratory by American chemist Roger Adams¹. However, the molecular structure of THC was uncovered by Israeli chemist Raphael Mechoulam and his team in 1964.

THC strength has increased significantly since the 1960s. From the 1960s through the 80s, the THC content in marijuana was less than 2%. 

In the 90s it rose to 4%. As recently as 2017, THC content had risen to 17-28% and can be even higher (up to 95%) in concentrated products.

Despite it being known for recreational usage, research has revealed that THC has a long list of potential health benefits.

So, while it might be famous for its psychoactive effects, there’s a lot more to THC than meets the eye.

Let’s dive in and explore this compound together.

What is Delta-9 THC? Where does it come from?

Delta-9 THC is a specific cannabinoid found in the cannabis plant1. It is the most well-known, most studied and most abundant form of THC in the cannabis plant². 

Its molecular structure allows it to interact with the endocannabinoid system in the brain, particularly the CB1 receptors².

This interaction leads to the psychoactive effects associated with cannabis use, altering mood, perception, and cognition².

Delta-9 THC was also discovered by Raphael Mechoulam in 1964. While THC refers to a group of similar compounds that can have different structures like Delta-8 and Delta-10.

The psychoactive effects from Delta-9 THC are generally considered to be the same as from recreational cannabis.

The cannabis plant naturally contains varying levels of Delta-9, depending on the specific strains and varieties². Hemp plants contain 0.3% THC by dry weight while marijuana plants can contain a significantly higher amount.

Does Delta-9 THC Get You High?

A man standing on a mountain peak and enjoying the view

Yes, Delta-9 THC is responsible for the intoxicating effect when you consume cannabis⁴. 

It’s the most abundant form of THC, and it’s what makes you feel high⁴. 

When you consume marijuana, THC overwhelms the endocannabinoid system by interfering with the endocannabinoids in the body. This temporary alteration of some bodily processes is what we call “the high”.

THC is able to attach to molecules called cannabinoid receptors on neurons in these brain areas and activate them, disrupting various mental and physical functions. The neural communication network that uses these cannabinoid neurotransmitters, known as the endocannabinoid system, plays a critical role in the nervous system’s normal functioning.⁴

While THC’s effects are largely safe and well-tolerated, it’s important to note that THC at higher doses can also have some side effects and more intense intoxication.

What Does Delta-9 THC Really Do?

A woman resting against a tree on a sunny day

A lot of people have started to use Delta 9 THC. Why? Let’s take a look.

In a 2022 research study, the majority of Delta-9-THC users reported experiencing significant effects, which include:

  • Relaxation: A significant majority of users (71%) reported experiencing a lot or a great deal of relaxation. This is a common effect associated with the use of THC, a compound found in cannabis.
  • Euphoria: About 68% of users reported feeling euphoric, another common effect of THC.
  • Pain Relief: Over half of the users (55%) reported that they experienced pain relief from using Delta-9-THC.
  • Cognitive Distortions: Despite these positive effects, users also reported experiencing cognitive distortions such as difficulty concentrating (81%), difficulties with short-term memory (80%), and an altered sense of time (74%). It’s important to note that these effects generally subside in a few hours after the “high” of THC fades.
  • Anxiety and Paranoia: Interestingly, a large proportion of users did not experience anxiety (74%) or paranoia (83%), which are often associated with the use of high-THC cannabis products.

In the same study, when comparing Delta-8-THC with Delta-9-THC and pharmaceutical drugs, most participants reported their preference. Here are the details:

  • 59% of participants reported substituting pharmaceutical drugs with THC. This indicates a preference for the natural cannabinoid over traditional chemical based medications.

Please note that these are self-reported data and further scientific research is needed to confirm these findings. As always, it’s important to consult with a healthcare provider when considering the use of substances like Delta-9-THC.

The Benefits of Delta-9 THC

Delta-9 THC has been associated with a wide range of potential medical benefits⁴. 

According to 2021 research, THC might be able to aid in symptoms of anxiety, glaucoma, low appetite, obstructive sleep issues, nausea, and aches and discomfort⁴.

The Food and Drug Administration approved some medications containing THC to treat medical conditions⁴.

For example, experts use a synthetic form of delta-9 THC to create dronabinol (Marinol), which they use to stimulate appetite in people⁴.

Deep Relaxation

Delta-9-THC, a type of cannabis, is known for its psychoactive properties, which means it can make you feel high. It stimulates higher than normal levels of dopamine release, the neurotransmitter responsible for influencing mood and pleasure. Studies show that the cannabinoid can deliver a state of deep relaxation and euphoria for its users.

Delta-9-THC activates the body’s CB1 and CB2 receptors, causing a range of physiological and psychological reactions. 

Their interaction with CB1 receptors is responsible for relaxation, appetite boost, nerve regeneration, stress relief, and euphoria.

Anxiety Relief

Stress Free Zone

Delta-9-THC has been documented for being used in alleviating anxiety.

It can vary widely among individuals and depend on several factors such as the amount consumed, the method of consumption, and the individual’s tolerance and metabolism.

In low to moderate quantities, Delta-9-THC may help reduce anxiety. This is because Delta-9-THC is a CB1 receptor agonist, and this receptor type is predominantly found in the central nervous system, which includes the brain and the spinal cord.

However, certain research has also shown that in very high doses, it might produce feelings of anxiety, panic, paranoia, and psychosis. 

THC is known for its “biphasic effects,” meaning it can have different effects at different doses. A small amount of Delta-9-THC can alleviate anxiety, but taking a little too much may induce anxiety.

Most people however are generally comfortable with THC and do not experience anxious feelings.

Delta-9 THC might also be able to ease anxiety by stimulating higher release of dopamine than normal. Dopamine is a hormone that plays a significant role in how we feel pleasure. 

It’s also a big part of our unique human ability to think and plan.

So, by stimulating the release of dopamine, Delta-9 THC can help to ease feelings of anxiety.

Glaucoma Treatment

Glaucoma is a condition that causes damage to your eye’s optic nerve and gets worse over time. It’s often linked to a buildup of pressure inside your eye. 

Delta-9 THC may reduce this intraocular pressure, providing relief for glaucoma patients. This may help to slow the progression of the disease.

As a stand-alone cannabinoid, THC benefits people with glaucoma more than CBD alone. Which can also mean that full-spectrum CBD is better suited for it than THC-Free CBD.

Numerous studies show that both Delta-9-THC and Delta-8-THC impact optic nerve health. THC not only lowers intraocular pressure but also helps to protect neurons from damage.

It’s important to note that these are general observations and the exact effects can vary from person to person.

Better Sleep

A woman sleeping peacefully in her bed

According to some researchers, Delta-9-THC has shown potential to improve sleep quality in individuals with sleep disorders, such as insomnia and sleep apnea.

The sleep-promoting effects of Delta-9-THC come from its interaction with cannabinoid receptors in the brain. THC typically acts as a sedative and can help the person to fall asleep easily.

THC’s sedative effects can be so strong that a recent study found that it shortens the time it takes for people to fall asleep — regardless if they’re facing sleep problems or not.

Delta 9 THC and Insomnia

Delta-9 THC may help individuals struggling with insomnia by promoting relaxation and altering sensory perception. This may help to calm the mind and body, making it easier to fall asleep and stay asleep.

For people with certain conditions such as chronic pain, stress, muscle cramps and pain, THC may help them fall asleep faster, wake up less during the night, and enjoy better sleep quality overall. 

Many people use cannabis to self-treat insomnia, anxiety, and pain. Among these users, the effectiveness of cannabis for sleep is more ambivalent, though a study conducted on individuals with insomnia found that many participants reported relief from their symptoms when using cannabis. 

Some studies have found a distinction between daily users and less frequent, non-daily users in how cannabis affects their sleep. Those who use high doses of cannabis daily are more likely to report more sleep problems than occasional users or people who do not use cannabis at all.

Some other prominently reported benefits of Delta 9 THC are:

Healthy Appetite

Muscle Spasticity Relief

Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Pain Relief

Creativity and Problem Solving

A deeper appreciation of music, food, nature, meditation

The Side Effects of Delta-9

Delta-9 THC, like any other substance, can have side effects. Most of the common side effects of THC are temporary⁴. 

Here are some common side effects of Delta-9-THC:

  • Drowsiness and Fatigue: Delta-9-THC can cause drowsiness and feelings of fatigue, making it difficult for users to stay awake and alert.
  • Dry Mouth and Eyes: Users may experience dry mouth and eyes, which can be uncomfortable. Adequate hydration solves this problem.
  • Anxiety and Paranoia: While most people find that Delta-9-THC helps to reduce anxiety, some may experience increased anxiety and paranoia.
  • Impaired Memory and Cognitive Function: Delta-9-THC in very high doses can impair memory and cognitive function, making it difficult for users to think clearly and remember things. This is usually short lived and limited to the duration of the intoxicating effects.
  • Increased Heart Rate: Delta-9-THC can increase heart rate which in most cases is temporary.
  • Red Eyes: Delta-9-THC can cause blood vessels in the eyes to expand, leading to red eyes.

It’s always recommended to consult with a healthcare provider when considering the use of substances like Delta-9-THC. 

What’s The Difference Between Delta-8 and Delta-9?

Delta-8 and Delta-9 are two types of THC found in the cannabis plant, and they almost have the same chemical composition⁵. The only difference is that they have differently positioned carbon and carbon double bonds⁵.

Delta-8-THC is an isomer of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (delta-9-THC, Δ9-THC), commonly known as THC. 

Delta-8 THC is similar to delta-9 THC, it has a different chemical structure and is usually synthetically made.

The reason why Delta-8 THC is often referred to as synthetic is because it’s usually manufactured in a lab due to its naturally low occurrence in the cannabis plant. 

The natural amount of Delta-8 THC in hemp is very low, and additional chemicals are needed to convert other cannabinoids in hemp, like CBD, into Delta-8 THC. This process is known as isomerization.

Delta-8 is less potent and doesn’t give a user the same level of ‘high’ as Delta-9⁵. The latter produced a more intense ‘high’ than the former.

Delta-8 might seem like a good option for those who desire a more subtle experience or wish to avoid intense psychoactive effects, but it poses a lot of potential risks. 

First, it is synthetically derived and not regulated by the FDA so you don’t know the toxic additives present⁹. Second, Delta-9 THC products offer stronger and longer-lasting effects, while Delta-8 THC provides a different, less intense effect.

If you took Delta-9 THC and found it overwhelming, you should try to dial back the dosage instead of thinking of switching to a synthetic alternative – Delta-8-THC.

Is Delta-9 Legal?

Delta-9 THC is federally legal in the United States as long as it is derived from hemp plants containing no more than the FDA mandated amount of less 0.3% THC⁴. 

However, each state has its own laws. In some states, cannabis and cannabis derivatives like delta-9 THC are only legal for medical use, while in others, it’s legal for recreational use⁴. 

It’s important to check the laws in your specific location before using Delta-9 THC.

Is Delta-9 The Same as CBD? How are they different?

CBD and Delta-9 THC

Delta-9 THC and CBD (Cannabidiol) are both cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant, but they have different effects on the body. 

Delta-9 THC is psychoactive, meaning it affects your mood, perception, and other mental processes, producing the “high” effects of marijuana. 

On the other hand, CBD is not psychoactive. It won’t get you high, but it can still make you feel calm and relaxed.

When CBD and THC are used together, they can create an “entourage effect”, suggesting that their combined effect is more potent than their individual effects. CBD may help moderate the psychoactive effects of Delta-9 THC.

THC may sometimes induce high anxiety and paranoia, CBD can help mitigate and minimize these unwanted side effects. On the other hand, THC can enhance the pain-relieving and calming properties of CBD. 

This balanced interaction between CBD and THC can potentially offer a broad spectrum of health benefits. The entourage effect is what makes Full-Spectrum CBD more impactful than CBD Isolate or Broad Spectrum

How is Delta 9 THC different from weed?

Delta-9 THC and weed, or cannabis, are often used interchangeably by many people. However, they are two very different compounds⁴. 

Delta-9 refers specifically to delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol, one of the primary psychoactive compounds found in cannabis, while weed encompasses the entire cannabis plant and its effects⁴.

Delta-9 THC and THC share several similarities. Both are cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant and have potential therapeutic benefits. They interact with the endocannabinoid system in the body, which can cause a ‘high’. 

There are also key differences between the two. Delta-9 THC is a specific type of THC with a specific molecular structure. On the other hand, THC refers to a group of similar compounds that can have different structures.

Delta-9 THC and Drug Tests

Yes, Delta-9 THC can make you fail a drug test⁶. Most drug tests are designed to detect the presence of THC in your system, and Delta-9 THC is one of the most common forms of THC found in cannabis. 

Even if you only use cannabis occasionally, Delta-9 THC can stay in your system for days or even weeks, depending on a variety of factors.

Who should Take Delta 9 THC?

Delta-9 THC can be beneficial for individuals seeking wellness benefits from cannabis products.

Who should avoid Delta-9 THC?

Individuals who are sensitive to the psychoactive effects of THC or those with certain medical conditions may want to avoid Delta-9 THC. It’s also not recommended for individuals who are pregnant, nursing, or planning to become pregnant. As always, it’s best to consult with a healthcare professional before starting any new supplement or medication.

Key Takeaways

Delta-9 THC is a specific cannabinoid found in the cannabis plant that is responsible for the intoxicating effect when you consume cannabis. 

  • Delta-9 THC is the primary psychoactive compound in cannabis, responsible for the euphoric “high” associated with marijuana use.
  • Its potential benefits include pain relief, relaxation, mood enhancement, and appetite stimulation, making it valuable for medical purposes.
  • Delta-9 THC can have side effects, such as impaired coordination and anxiety, and its intensity varies from person to person.
  • The legality of Delta-9 THC varies by location, so it’s crucial to be aware of and follow local laws and regulations.
  • Delta-9 THC is not the same as CBD, which is non-intoxicating and has distinct therapeutic properties.
  • “Weed” or “marijuana” refers to the entire cannabis plant, which contains various compounds, including Delta-9 THC.
  • Delta-9 THC can show up on drug tests, potentially impacting employment, legal matters, and sports participation.


What is Delta-9 THC?

Delta-9 THC is a specific cannabinoid found in the cannabis plant. It’s one of the primary psychoactive compounds found in cannabis.

Does Delta-9 THC get you high?

Yes, Delta-9 THC is responsible for the intoxicating effect when you consume cannabis.

What are the benefits of Delta-9 THC?

Delta-9 THC has been associated with a wide range of potential medical benefits, including pain relief, nausea reduction, and appetite stimulation.

What are the side effects of Delta-9 THC?

Side effects of Delta-9 THC include anxiety, dry mouth, increased appetite and heart rate, memory loss, red eyes, and slowed reaction times.

Is Delta-9 THC legal?

Hemp-derived Delta-9 THC is federally legal in the United States. However, each state has its own laws so it is important to check the local laws before buying Delta 9 THC products.

Is Delta-9 THC the same as CBD?

No, Delta-9 THC and CBD are both cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant, but they have different effects on the body.

How is Delta-9 THC different from weed?

Delta-9 THC refers specifically to delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol, one of the primary psychoactive compounds found in cannabis, while weed encompasses the entire cannabis plant and its effects.

Can Delta-9 THC show up on a drug test?

Yes, Delta-9 THC can make you fail a drug test.

Who should take Delta-9 THC?

Delta-9 THC can be beneficial for individuals seeking therapeutic benefits from cannabis products. However, it’s important to consult with a healthcare professional before use.

Who should avoid Delta-9 THC?

Individuals who are sensitive to the psychoactive effects of THC or those with certain medical conditions may want to avoid Delta-9 THC.

(1) Delta 9 Vs THC: Understanding The Differences –
(2) What Is Delta-9? Safety, THC Effects, Legality – Healthline.
(3) Which is stronger, delta 8 or delta 9? | Discover Magazine.
(4) DELTA-9-TETRAHYDROCANNABINOL (THC) – Uses, Side Effects, and More – WebMD

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