Is delta-8 dangerous for kids?
As CBD oils, lotions, food and other products become part of everyday life for many, the idea that products derived from marijuana or hemp are harmless is becoming common. This has even expanded to the idea of “legal high” products like delta-8, which promise to offer the same euphoric experience without health risks.
Unfortunately, though, delta-8 can be dangerous, especially for kids. Mason Jackson, MD, emergency medicine resident physician, offered answers to common questions about delta-8 and other “legal weed” products.
What is delta-8?
“Delta-8 is not the same, or isn’t causing the same experience, as the use of marijuana back in the 60’s or 70’s,” said Dr. Jackson. “When talking about delta-8, it’s important to distinguish the difference between THC and marijuana products and the new delta-8 products.”
Delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol, also called delta-9 THC, is a psychoactive compound in the cannabis sativa plant. Marijuana and hemp are two varieties of cannabis sativa. Delta- 9 THC is just one of over 100 chemical compounds that the cannabis plant produces naturally. Marijuana derived substances have increased in potency and severity of side effects, marking a significant change from the classic understanding of marijuana products consumed 60 years ago.
Delta-8 THC, branded as a legal alternative to the illicit Delta-9, is composed of virtually the exact same chemical structure as Delta-9. This structural similarity is why the effects of ingestion delta-8 are essential the same as eating, smoking or vaping marijuana products.
Delta-8 is legal. Does that mean it’s safe?
Just like many vitamins and supplements, delta-8 is legal, but not necessarily safe for everyone to use. It hasn’t been regulated by the FDA, and there’s no system in place to ensure that you get the amount written on the label, the quality of the product or even that delta-8 THC is what you are ingesting. In some cases, the ‘delta-8 THC’ turned out to be simply THC itself, which could lead to failing a drug test if using delta-8 or similar products. This can also potentially happen to people who use CBD products.
Can delta-8 make kids sick?
“Since delta-8 is marketed as more or less a ‘safe’ alternative to illegal substances, people haven’t been as careful when it comes to storage and who can get into it,” said Dr. Jackson. “We’ve seen a significant number of children who require hospitalization or even time in intensive care due to the effects of ingesting delta-8.”
Both THC and delta-8 products have been implicated in severe symptoms when overused, especially with how easy it is to access. Delta-8 has been known to cause symptoms in adults and children, but more intensely in children.
- High or low blood pressure
- Worsening of existing chronic conditions like seizures
- Difficulty breathing
- Impaired movement and motor function
- Agitation, anxiety or panic attacks
- Cardiac stress and irregular heartbeat
- Extreme sedation
- At very high levels, hallucinations
“Fortunately, these effects should eventually resolve on their own,” said Dr. Jackson. “However, in some cases, permanent damage could result if the child doesn’t receive medical care.”
How do children get into delta-8?
While the popular image of marijuana use involves smoking or vaping it, delta-8 is a little different. While it can be vaped, delta-8 is more frequently eaten.
Like many CBD and THC products, delta-8 often comes baked into sweet treats like brownies, cookies, chocolate truffles or other snacks. It may also come in gummy form in a brightly colored bottle that to a young child looks just like candy. The sweet taste makes it incredibly easy for a young child to take very high doses without even realizing what they’ve eaten.
Children’s bodies are smaller and thus it takes much less of the drug to achieve an effect. They’re far more vulnerable to serious side effects than adults, especially with the high levels of delta-8 they may receive from eating a big brownie, chocolate bar or handful of delta-8 gummies.
When did delta-8 use in kids become a trend?
“I would not necessarily say there was a start date to a trend of children showing negative effects, but physicians have started to pick up on patients presenting with this issue over the last year.”
The reason it seems like it has become popular recently is due to the passage of a specific farm bill through Congress in 2018, which removed hemp and hemp-derived products from the list of controlled substances regulated by the government. Since delta-8 is made from the hemp plant, it has been able to remain legal and publicly available.
How can a parent who uses delta-8 keep their child safe?
Delta-8 has become popular as a way of soothing anxiety after a long day. Some use delta-8 recreationally or as a sleep aid. But having it in the house for personal use means it’s more convenient for a child to access, too.
“Many times, physicians who see children for adverse effects from delta-8 and other similar products find that their patients have gotten into their parents’ or another adult’s supply,” said Dr. Jackson. “The easiest way to keep a child from getting harmed by these substances is to not have it in the house and not to use it yourself.”
For those who choose to continue using delta-8, a few precautions can help to keep your children safe. Make sure your delta-8 or other related products are locked away before and after each use. Don’t assume that placing it in a dresser drawer or under the bed will keep it from being found. And consider purchasing forms that don’t look like candy or desserts to young children who are drawn to sweet treats.
If a child or someone in your household ingests delta-8 and shows any symptoms, call Poison Control at 800-222-1222 and then seek medical care immediately. Young children who ingest delta-8 may need emergency care.
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