THC-O: Effects, Benefits, Risks and Everything You Need to Know

thc-o effects
By Anthony Pellegrino Updated May 29th

Fact-checked by Alexandra Arnett, MS

THC-O: the lesser-known cannabinoid currently making waves in some circles of the cannabis community. THC-O, or THC-O-acetate, is a cannabinoid similar to THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the well-known psychoactive compound in cannabis. 

However, THC-O exhibits some distinct differences in its chemical structure and effects. Not only that, while THC-O is often derived from hemp, it has been reported to be significantly more potent than traditional THC. Of course, whether this is actually true is a different story. Nevertheless, this quality has drawn the interest of both recreational and medicinal cannabis users alike.

The landscape of hemp-derived products has seen significant growth and innovation in recent years, thanks in part to the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill in the United States. This landmark legislation legalized the cultivation and sale of hemp and its derivatives, including THC-O (as long as they contain less than 0.3% THC on a dry weight basis). As you can imagine, such legislation opened the floodgates for new opportunities in developing and distributing hemp-based products, leading to an explosion of options available to consumers.

Still, despite this, the legality of hemp-derived THC-O products remains unclear, especially for consumers. For example, some argue that THC-O falls under the umbrella of legal hemp derivatives. In contrast, others contend that its potency and psychoactive effects mean it counts as an illegal, controlled substance. As a result, regulations and interpretations vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, making it essential for consumers to stay informed about the legal status of THC-O in their area.

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What is THC-O?

thc-o cannabinoid

THC-O, short for THC-O acetate, is a synthetic analog or chemical twin of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). 

Despite their similarities, there are distinct differences between the two compounds. First and foremost, while THC is a naturally occurring cannabinoid found in cannabis plants, THC-O can only be produced synthetically through a series of (potentially dangerous) chemical reactions. 

So how is THC-O derived? 

Initially, cannabidiol (CBD) is extracted from hemp plants. From there, the CBD is transformed into delta-8 THC. Like THC-O, delta-8 is another hemp-derived cannabinoid that intends to mimic the effects of THC while circumventing the legal restrictions placed on cannabis. In other words, another so-called "legal-high."

Converting CBD into delta-8 THC is no easy feat, nor something people can (or should) do at home. All cannabinoids, whether they be CBD, THC, or THC-O, are all very similar to one another in regards to their molecular structure. So, trained chemists in a lab can relatively easily convert one into another

Once the chemists have the delta-8 THC in hand, they add acetic anhydride to produce THC-O acetate. 

THC-O can’t be found out in the wild, nor is it a cannabinoid that plants can produce biologically. This is not a trivial fact, as it forms the core of arguments regarding the legality of this synthetic cannabinoid.

THC-O Effects

Many cannabis users have anecdotally reported that THC-O produces potent and distinct effects on the human body. A common report is that THC-O is three times more potent than natural THC. Unfortunately, there is limited scientific research on the truth of these claims. It would be difficult to even find an unbiased THC-O review at this point, since the cannabinoid isn’t widely available. 

However, it is known that, being an analog to THC, THC-O is a psychoactive compound. However, the onset and duration of the high induced by THC-O can vary. Unlike THC edibles, THC-O has the ability to metabolize in the bloodstream before its effects become apparent. In other words, it is a "prodrug."1

While online reports have noted THC-O to be almost three times more potent than delta-9 THC, a study published in June 2023 found that 79% of users reported that THC-O has little to no psychedelic experience.2 Effects of THC-O may include heightened sensory perception, increased relaxation, and enhanced creativity, but more research is needed.

With insufficient research limiting our understanding of THC-O’s effects and potential risks, consumers should always approach THC-O cautiously. 

THC-O Benefits

THC-O Benefits

The benefits of using THC-O, for most users, likely stem from its purported potency and the flexibility afforded by its unclear legal status. 

However, the scientific literature on THC-O is extremely limited. Most of the information available is based on consumer anecdotal reports, which aren’t scientific or reliable given how an individual’s physiology and dosage can affect their experience with cannabis. While there is ongoing exploration, the specific benefits (if any) of THC-O compared to other cannabinoids remain unclear.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that THC-O may offer unique effects and potential relief for some people. For example, some users claim that THC-O provides enhanced relaxation, increased creativity, and a more intense psychoactive experience than other cannabinoids. 

Another potential selling point of THC-O is its accessibility, as it is available for purchase legally in certain jurisdictions where naturally occurring THC is prohibited. However, this is becoming less common as law enforcement agencies are increasingly aware of THC-O and its attempts to circumvent scheduling under the 2018 Farm Bill. The DEA has stated that all "synthetically derived tetrahydrocannabinol [such as THC-O] remains a Schedule I controlled substance" and are thus illegal under federal law.

THC-O Risks

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As with any psychoactive substance, there are potential risks associated with using THC-O. However, it's important to note that scientific research on the specific dangers of THC-O is limited, and much of the information available is based on anecdotal reports and general knowledge of cannabinoids.

It stands to reason that if THC-O is indeed more psychoactive, some users would be at a greater risk of experiencing adverse reactions like anxiety or similar symptoms. 

The fact that THC-O is synthetically derived also raises concerns about the consistency and quality of the product. Therefore, ensuring proper testing and quality control measures during manufacturing is crucial to minimize potential impurities or contaminants.

Of particular concern, a 2023 study published in the Journal of Medical Toxicology warns of the potential danger of inhaling THC-O acetate.3 The researchers state that THC-O is structurally similar to Vitamin-E acetate. If that compound sounds familiar to you, it's because Vitamin-E acetate was responsible for the 2019 outbreak of vaping-associated pulmonary injury, which received enormous news coverage at the time. 

As for side effects and possible complications, individual experiences may vary. As reported anecdotally, typical side effects associated with THC-O use include increased anxiety, paranoia, dizziness, dry mouth, and impaired cognitive function.4 It should be noted that these side effects can be influenced by factors such as dosage, individual sensitivity, and the presence of other substances.

Finally, the intense psychoactive effects of THC-O may increase the risk of impaired judgment and impaired motor skills, which can lead to accidents or other safety concerns. Therefore, individuals with underlying medical conditions, those who are pregnant or breastfeeding, and anyone who is prone to psychiatric disorders should exercise extreme caution or avoid THC-O altogether. As always, it’s best to consult with healthcare professionals before using any new psychoactive substance like THC-O.

THC-O vs Other Cannabinoids

THC-O compared

How does THC-O compare to other cannabinoids?

THC-O vs THC (Delta-9)

THC-O is a synthetic analog of THC. While THC and THC-O both have psychoactive effects, THC-O is reportedly more potent than traditional THC. THC-O is not naturally occurring and can only be produced synthetically, while THC is naturally present in cannabis plants. THC is prevalent and widely commercially available in cannabis products, whereas THC-O is relatively uncommon and likely not available in most dispensaries. 

THC-O vs Delta-8

Delta-8 THC is a minor cannabinoid that is a result of delta-9 THC degradation and it is produced by converting hemp-derived CBD. Delta-8 and THC-O share a special relationship, as THC-O is usually derived from delta-8, but can be derived by converting delta-9 THC and delta-10 THC. Regarding potency, anecdotal reports suggest that THC-O may be more potent than delta-8 THC. Delta-8 THC has also gained popularity recently and is becoming more prevalent in commercially available cannabis products.

THC-O vs Delta 10

Delta-10 THC is another semi-synthetic minor cannabinoid similar to delta-8. It can be derived from THC using chemical processes, as it is rarely, if ever, found in cannabis plants. THC-O is similar to delta-10 in that both are produced synthetically. However, considering both are different compounds, they may differ regarding their effects. 


THC-P is a relatively new and less-studied cannabinoid, being first isolated from cannabis in 2019.5 It is reported to be even more potent than THC and THC-O. While it can be found within cannabis plants, its prevalence and availability in commercially available cannabis products are limited compared to more widely known cannabinoids like THC and delta-8 THC.

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THC-O Products

Once THC-O is produced from hemp, it could, in theory, be added to various products. However, in the vast majority of cases, you'll see THC-O being sold in the form of edibles and vapes. 

Here are a few examples of THC-O products you may find in a dispensary near you.

THC-O Edibles and Gummies

By far the most common type of THC-O product you're likely to find is THC-O gummies. The reason is that it's incredibly easy to make edible gummies using cannabinoid isolates like THC-O. However, the availability of THC-O edibles may vary depending on local regulations, and they are often found in licensed dispensaries or online retailers where THC-O products are legal.

Some top THC-O gummy brands include:

THC-O Vapes

THC-O vape cartridges contain a concentrated THC-O oil that can be vaporized and inhaled using a compatible vape pen or device. The potency of THC-O vape cartridges can vary, and their availability may depend on local regulations regarding THC-O and cannabis products in the area.

It’s important to remember that some studies have suggested inhaling THC-O can be dangerous due to its similarities with Vitamin-E acetate, and consumers should exercise caution before using THC-O vaporizers. 

Some top THC-O vape cart brands include:

THC-O Tinctures

Finally, you may find THC-O tinctures available in your area. Tinctures are liquid formulations that can be taken sublingually (under the tongue) for efficient absorption. They often come with a dropper for precise dosing. 

Some top THC-O tincture brands include:

THC-O Flower

While flower is one of the most popular cannabis products among consumers, it’s not likely that THC-O flower will be lining dispensary shelves anytime soon. Because THC-O is a synthetic cannabinoid, THC-O flower would need to be made by spraying hemp flower with lab-created THC-O, much like now delta-8 flower is made. With more convenient products, like THC-O gummies and THC-O vapes, the need to create THC-O flower is minimal.


Is THC-O more potent than THC? 

Anecdotal reports suggest that THC-O may be more potent than traditional THC (delta-9). However, due to limited scientific research, the exact potency and effects of THC-O compared to THC are not well-established. Therefore, it's recommended to start with a low dose and exercise caution when using THC-O to gauge personal sensitivity and tolerance.

Does THC-O appear on a drug test? 

Yes, THC-O has the potential to show up on a drug test. Standard drug tests typically detect the presence of THC metabolites in the body. Since THC-O is chemically similar to THC, it may trigger a positive result. However, it is essential to be aware of the drug testing policies in your specific situation and the particular substances being tested for.

How long does THC-O stay in the body? 

The duration of THC-O's presence in the body can vary depending on metabolism, dosage, and frequency of use (among other factors). THC-O, like other cannabinoids, can be detected in bodily fluids such as urine, blood, and saliva for several days to weeks after use. However, the exact timeframe can vary, and more research is needed to provide precise information on eliminating THC-O from the body.

Is THC-O legal? The legality of THC-O can vary depending on regional laws and regulations. While some jurisdictions may allow the sale and use of THC-O products, others may have restrictions or classify it as a controlled substance. For what it's worth, the DEA itself considers it a controlled substance that does not comply with the 2018 Farm Bill. So before considering its use, research and understand the specific laws governing THC-O in your area.


  1. Bone C, Munger K, Klein C, Strongin R. New Kinds of [Hash]tags: An Interdisciplinary Examination of Semi-Synthetic Cannabinoids. Journal of Student Research. 2022;11(2). ↩︎
  2. Kruger DJ, Bone C, Meacham MC, Klein CH, Kruger J. THC-O-Acetate: Scarce Evidence for a Psychedelic Cannabinoid. Journal of Psychoactive Drugs. Published online June 29, 2023:1-5. doi: ↩︎
  3. Benowitz NL, Havel C, Jacob P, O’Shea DF, Wu D, Fowles J. Vaping THC-O Acetate: Potential for Another EVALI Epidemic. Journal of Medical Toxicology: Official Journal of the American College of Medical Toxicology. 2023;19(1):37-39. doi: ↩︎
  4. Sugawara N, Norio Yasui-Furukori, Shimoda K. A case of panic attack developing after THC‐O acetate inhalation using an e‐cigarette device. Published online May 4, 2023. doi: ↩︎
  5. Bueno J, Greenbaum EA. (−)-trans-Δ9-Tetrahydrocannabiphorol Content of Cannabis sativa Inflorescence from Various Chemotypes. Journal of Natural Products. 2021;84(2):531-536. doi: ↩︎

The information in this article and any included images or charts are for educational purposes only. This information is neither a substitute for, nor does it replace, professional legal advice or medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about laws, regulations, or your health, you should always consult with an attorney, physician or other licensed professional.

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