- Heating THC-O can lead to the formation of ketene, a dangerous lung toxicant, through thermal degradation.
- The risk is not from cannabis or vaping, but from the interaction of heat with acetate form of chemicals including THC.
- It is recommended to avoid vaping or smoking THC-O or any acetate form of cannabinoids and seek alternative options like THC-O gummies or tinctures.
A study conducted recently has sparked fears that cannabis products with THC-O acetate could lead to an outbreak of EVALI—a common lung injury that’s similar to the outbreak in 2019.
In recent years, THC-O acetate products have become increasingly popular because users report more powerful psychoactive effects—such as relaxation and euphoria—than traditional cannabis.
Likewise, there’s also been growing concern surrounding the legality of THC-O acetate in the United States.
The New Study on THC-O Acetate
A new study by the Journal of Medical Toxicology has shown the possible health risks associated with THC-O acetate products.
The study also warned that THC-O acetate products could cause another EVALI outbreak. The last major outbreak was in 2019; it caused 68 deaths and 2,807 hospitalizations.
The authors of this recent study said vaping products containing THC-O acetate have a higher risk of causing lung damage, similar to the EVALI outbreak caused by e-cigarettes and vaping in 2019.
The 2018 Farm Bill, which legalized the cultivation of hemp, led to THC-O acetate’s popularity. The bill caused the production of products containing non-intoxicating cannabinoids—such as GBG or full-spectrum cannabinoid products with less than 0.3% THC and CBD.
That said, some cannabis cultivation companies opted to use non-intoxicating hemp compounds to create chemical compounds with stronger psychoactive effects—such as THC-O acetate.
What Is THC-O Acetate?
THC-O is a synthetic cannabinoid that comes from hemp. Cultivators create THC-O acetate with a chemical procedure using acetic anhydride. It’s a complex and challenging process that requires high-tech equipment.
Cultivators start the process by altering CBD from hemp plants into delta-8 THC before using acetic anhydride to create THC-O acetate.
Cannabis fans report more potent effects from using THC-O acetate, but there’s still limited scientific research on the compound.
The 2019 EVALI Outbreak
In 2019, scientists believed inhaling vitamin E acetate through e-cigarettes caused a major outbreak of severe lung injuries. Scientists used a Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry test on an e-cigarette called Blue Dream.
The test showed that 84 percent of the liquid inside was THC-O—including a chemical group dubbed acetate—which may create a toxic substance named ketene when heated.
Unfortunately, ketene is dangerous for your lungs and scientists believe it was the cause of the EVALI outbreak linked to e-cigarette products.
In addition, the study shows that products can be safe when taken orally—but they could be dangerous if smoked or vaped.
However, this study only tested a few vaping products, and vaping conditions can differ among different people.
The Confusion About the Legality of THC-O Acetate
The legality of using THC-O acetate products is increasingly murky. Although the 2018 Farm Bill made THC-O Acetate legal, many people argue that synthetic intoxicating products created via the chemical conversion of hemp-derived CBD are deemed illegal.
What’s more, the Federal Analog Act states that chemicals similar to illegal drugs should be considered schedule 1 drugs.
The Drug Enforcement Administration also says that delta-8 THC that’s synthetically produced from non-cannabis materials is a controlled substance under the CSA.
As research grows on THC-O acetate, we’re starting to understand the potential dangers of vaping and smoking it. However, research is still young and everyone has different vaping habits.
As we learn more about THC-O acetate, we’ll be the first to let you know!