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New study shows many high school seniors are using delta-8 THC products

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Posted at 5:08 PM, Mar 13, 2024

(WXYZ) — In today's Health Alert, a recent study reveals a considerable number of high school seniors are using delta-8 THC products.

Delta-8 is a cannabis compound, and its use could pose potential health risks for the developing brain.

The study published in the journal JAMA found over 1 in 10 seniors reported using delta-8 THC. That's short for delta-8 tetrahydrocannabinol.

It's a psychoactive substance found in the Cannabis sativa plant - two varieties that most people will be familiar with are the marijuana and hemp plants.

Now, delta-8 is a chemical cousin to delta-9 THC - that's the substance responsible for the high or psychoactive effects people can experience.

But delta-8 is often marketed as "light THC" or "diet weed." It's believed to be less potent with weaker psychoactive effects. I can't say that with certainty, as there just isn't enough research out there yet. And that's the concern.

This latest study used data from an in-school survey called Monitoring the Future - that's an ongoing national study conducted by the University of Michigan.

Now, researchers pulled data from February through June of 2023. After analyzing the data, they found that 11.4 % of the participants reported using delta-8 THC in the past year.

That may sound small, but that is a lot of kids.

68.1% of them said they used it three times, 35.4% 10 times, and 17% at least 40 times.

White teenagers were more likely to use it, and more boys than girls.

It appeals to the younger generation because it comes in many products like gummies, cookies, chocolate, and vaping cartridges.

Unlike marijuana, delta-8 can be purchased without age restrictions in many states where it's legal. It can easily be found in convenience stores, gas stations, and online.

Also, Delta-8 THC is unregulated in numerous states due to a loophole in the 2018 farm bill. It's extracted mostly from hemp plants, which is legal to farm across the U.S.

As for the impact on the teen brain, delta-8 THC could pose risks similar to delta-9 THC. Teen brains are still forming and developing. It could have an impact on structure and function. Use could lead to issues like memory loss, cognitive difficulties, and brain developmental processes.

Delta-9 is linked to depression and anxiety in young people. So, it's really important to educate our teenagers about the potential risks associated with cannabis use. And let them know that delta-8 THC products are not FDA-regulated, so we really don't know for sure what is in them.