Participants mostly consumed delta-8-THC through edibles (64%; brownies, gummies, etc.), vaped concentrates (48%; hash, wax, dabs, oil, etc.), and tinctures (32%). Some participants consumed delta-8-THC through smoking concentrates (23%; hash, wax, dabs, oil, etc.), smoking bud or flower (18%), vaping bud or flower (9%), topical products (9%; lotion, cream, oil, patch on skin), capsules (6%), suppositories (1%), and other methods (1%). Most participants (83%) also reported consuming delta-9-THC cannabis and products and reported substitution for delta-9-THC (57%) and pharmaceutical drugs (59%).

Experiences with delta-8-THC were most prominently characterized by relaxation, pain relief, and euphoria (see Table 1 and Fig. 1). Participants reported modest levels of cognitive distortions such as an altered sense of time, difficulties with short-term memory, and difficulty concentrating. Participants reported low levels of distressing mental states (anxiety and paranoia). There were large statistical effect sizes in differences between items in the first set of experiences (relaxation, pain relief, and euphoria) and items in the second set (cognitive distortions), and medium statistical effect sizes in differences between cognitive distortions and anxiety and paranoia.

On average participants reported that the effects of delta-8-THC were less intense, t(433) = 23.86, p < .001, d = 1.15, and had a shorter duration, t(421) = 10.08, p < .001, d = 0.49, than the effects of delta-9-THC (see Fig. 2). Proportionally, participants reported the intensity of effect as much more with delta-9-THC (36%), somewhat more with delta-9-THC (44%), about the same (15%), somewhat more with delta-8-THC (4%), and much more with delta-8-THC (2%). Proportionally, participants reported the duration of effect as much more with delta-9-THC (20%), somewhat more with delta-9-THC (27%), about the same (41%), somewhat more with delta-8-THC (8%), and much more with delta-8-THC (5%).

Demographic analyses indicated that women perceived delta-8-THC effects to be somewhat more intense, t(420) = 3.55, p < .001, d = 0.36, and longer lasting, t(408) = 3.45, p < .001, d = 0.36, compared to delta-9-THC than did men. Older individuals perceived delta-8-THC effects to be somewhat more intense, r(429) = .141, p = .003, and longer lasting, r(418) = .293 p < .001, compared to delta-9-THC than younger individuals. Controlling for age, those completing more years of education perceived delta-8-THC effects to be somewhat more intense, r(383) = .158, p = .003, and longer lasting, r(383) = .139 p = .006, compared to delta-9-THC than those with less education.

Participants (n = 204) provided text responses in one or both open-ended questions (see Table 2 and S1). The most common theme was comparisons between delta-8-THC and delta-9-THC. Participants’ responses containing this theme included: “Delta 8 feels like Delta 9’s nicer younger sibling”; “It has all the positives and many fewer drawbacks/side effects. It is less impairing and much less likely to cause anxiety or paranoia. It has much milder to nonexistent aftereffects”; “Delta 8 is not as heavy as Delta 9. With Delta 8, I am able to perform my normal day to day activities, i.e., no couch lock, paranoia, munchies. I am able to function well at work under the influence of Delta 8 whereas under the influence on Delta 9 at work, I am paranoid and feel less motivated to do work activities. Delta 8 has more of just a euphoria feeling than any other feeling for me. I want to do activities and I want to have a pleasurable time. Whereas if I have too much of Delta 9, all I want to do is watch TV, eat snacks, distance myself from the outside world. Delta 9 is better for sleep.”

The second most common theme was the therapeutic effect or benefit from delta-8-THC, participants’ responses containing this theme included: “It is like “lite” Delta 9. I can focus and work more with Delta 8 than Delta 9. It helps my pains and relaxation and I feel more able. Depending on the strain it has taken the place of melatonin for sleep.”; “As with any newer drug with limited study, care should be taken with its use. But I’ve personally found it immensely useful and therapeutic, with management of anxiety and sleep issues. Which nothing but far more addictive drugs (regarding anxiolytics), have helped with in the past. I hope lots more studies will be able to be done.”; “Delta-9 I pretty regularly experience panic attacks. Delta-8 I do not and it relieves symptoms of PTSD and anxiety pretty quickly.” The third most common theme was comments on the study or researchers. Some examples of this praise are “I’m glad that there’s more academic research being done on the subject, thank you for doing it!” and “Keep up the good work. Need more studies and information on cannabinoids.”

The fourth most common theme was expressions of concern, particularly for continued legal access to delta-8-THC. Participants’ responses containing this theme included: “D8 is Great for daytime relief when you need to get stuff done. It has helped me a lot! I HOPE THEY DON’T BAN IT!”; “I feel that delta-8-THC is a very effective alternative to delta-9-THC with less side effects. I primarily consume it in combination with high CBD or CBG hemp. I do wish there was regulation purely for safety concerns; more reliable lab testing, testing specifically for solvents and reagents used in delta-8-THC production, etc. But I do fear that harsh regulation may get in the way of a wonderful substance that could improve the lives of many people. I hope against hope that a fear mongering campaign doesn’t put an end to the golden age of D8 that we are currently experiencing.”

The fifth most common theme was general expressions of praise for delta-8-THC. Many participants had similar statements such as “Delta 8 is a great thing. It needs to stay accessible and affordable for the people that can really benefit.” The sixth most common theme was substitution of delta-8-THC for other substances. One participant stated: “The therapeutic and medicinal effects of Delta 8 have significantly improved my life, treating pain and sleeplessness while not making me feel the high I get from Delta 9. I have stopped taking pharmaceutical drugs and my health and wellbeing has improved.”

The seventh most common theme was the dual use of delta-8-THC and delta-9-THC. One representative comment was: “It seems a lot more of a ‘functional’ high, at my job we call it work-weed. I get too much anxiety to effectively deal with customers on Delta 9, Delta 8 is just about perfect for when you gotta actually do things. I still do prefer Delta-9 after a long day though.” The eighth most common theme was adverse effects of delta-8-THC, for example: “I love Delta 8 because I do not need to take it daily. I’ve never had withdrawals when I did not take it. What I dislike about Delta 8 is the feeling of always being cold. I did read the dosage had something to do with this but unfortunately even reducing the dosage gave me the same result.” Participants also made comments that did not fit into the major themes. The most frequent of these comments was that delta-8-THC edibles or tinctures were more powerful than when delta-8-THC was inhaled as a vape: “How Delta 8 is consumed plays a large role in the effects, when eaten or taken in a tincture it feels much closer to Delta 9 in effects compared to when vaping/dabbing Delta 8.”

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