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NIH Record - National Institutes of Health

Delta-8-THC Used by 11% of 12th Graders

Back of boy's head. He's holding a pen and looking at a survey on paper.

Photo: lucas piaceski/shutterstock

Approximately 11% of 12th-grade students across the country reported past-year use of delta-8-tetrahydrocannabinol (delta-8-THC, or delta-8 for short), according to an analysis from the 2023 Monitoring the Future survey. 

Delta-8 is a psychoactive substance typically derived from hemp, a variety of the Cannabis sativa plant. Delta-8 has intoxicating effects similar to delta-9-THC, the primary THC component responsible for the “high” people may experience from using cannabis. 

Researchers measured delta-8 use for the first time in 2023 to investigate the drug’s popularity among teens as more hemp-derived THC products enter the market and become more accessible. 

Among those who reported delta-8 use, close to 91% also reported marijuana use, contributing to the approximately 30% of 12th graders overall who reported past-year marijuana use. The survey also showed delta-8 use was more common in the South and Midwest regions and in states without cannabis legalization or delta-8 regulations. In contrast, levels of marijuana use did not differ by state-level cannabis policies. 

The findings were published as a brief report in JAMA. The Monitoring the Future survey is funded by NIDA and conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Because the survey is taken in school settings and therefore excludes students who were absent, there is likely an underestimation of the percentage of delta-8 use among adolescents. 

Numerous studies show adolescent cannabis use is associated with adverse effects on learning, memory and attention; changes in brain development; and the development of cannabis use disorder and other psychiatric disorders, such as depression, psychosis and suicidality. 

There is no federal minimum age requirement to purchase delta-8 products, which may be sold online or in gas stations and convenience stores. 

In 2022, the FDA issued a consumer warning of serious health risks associated with use of delta-8-THC, including risks of exposure to toxic byproducts.  

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