THC, Delta 8 and CBD: What Are They? Are They addictive?

CBD store
Photo by jax10289/

As of early 2023, thirty-seven of the United States of America have legalized medical marijuana. There are also nineteen states plus the District of Columbia that have legalized the drug for what is termed “recreational” use.

This means that more than 150 million adult Americans have access to marijuana that is either wide open or not very difficult to acquire. Americans in these thirty-seven states will also see businesses in their cities that either subtly or openly promote the drugs they sell. It is a good time to understand what these different products are, their effects, and which ones are addictive.

Types of Cannabis Products

In your town, you may see signs promoting the sale of THC, Delta-8 or CBD. These names refer to different consumable products of the cannabis plant. Before covering the differences between these products, it’s important to understand a few basic facts about the plant itself.

  • Cannabis sativa and cannabis indica plants are both used to create consumable products.
  • Cannabis sativa leaves are thinner than indica leaves. Indica leaves have seven points and sativa leaves have nine.
  • These plants contain more than 100 cannabinoids or active ingredients. These compounds all have some kind of drug-like effect on the body.
  • Both sativa and indica types of cannabis plants contain THC, Delta-8 and CBD, but in varying quantities.
  • The word “marijuana” simply refers to parts or products of the cannabis plant that contain a substantial amount of THC. In use, it is often synonymous with the word cannabis.

THC is an abbreviation for delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol. This is the major psychoactive component in cannabis, the one most desired by a person who wishes to become intoxicated.

Woman in pain and dizzy - THC effect

Medically, THC has been found helpful for chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting and for appetite stimulation for a person suffering from HIV or AIDS who is experiencing anorexia. However, THC is also a powerful intoxicant, capable of causing euphoria but also hallucinations, delusions, anxiety, panic, and psychotic episodes.

A person wishing to consume the highest ratio of THC will look for strains of cannabis that have been intentionally cultivated for ultra-high THC content. Smoking dried whole flowers from these plants provides an intoxicating result that can also be addictive.

Also available are high-THC oils for vaping, concentrates for smoking in special devices, all types of edibles and drinks, topical creams, inhalers, and much more. Anyone who consistently consumes high-THC products in any form may become addicted to them.

CBD is cannabidiol, the second-most prevalent cannabinoid in these plants. CBD has some pain-relieving, anti-anxiety, and anti-seizure qualities. CBD is found in salves, gummies, oils, bath salts, and cosmetic products, to mention just a few.

Note: The Cannabis indica plant has a higher ratio of CBD to THC, and the Cannabis sativa plant has a higher ratio of THC to CBD.

Delta-8 is short for delta-8 tetrahydrocannabinol, another of the cannabinoids. Delta-8 is chemically similar to delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol but has a weaker effect on the human body.

The Food and Drug Administration notes that they have received reports of adverse effects from the consumption of delta-8 that include:

  • Hallucinations
  • Vomiting
  • Tremors
  • Anxiety
  • Dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Loss of consciousness.

Also, because the manufacture of delta-8 is not regulated or supervised, those processing hemp plants can use whatever chemicals they choose in the processing and potentially leave contaminants in the final products.

You may see stores offering to sell delta-8 even in states where marijuana is not legal for either medical or recreational use. That’s because delta-8 is made by manufacturers who have found a legal loophole.

Here’s the backstory to the delta-8 loophole.

The 2018 Farm Bill

In 2018, hemp (Cannabis sativa L.—a variety of Cannabis sativa) was legalized as an agricultural crop. Prior to this time, growing hemp had been outlawed along with the cultivation or sale of marijuana. However, hemp has many uses in industry and the THC content of hemp is very low. Finally, hemp’s ban was lifted when the 2018 Farm Bill bill was passed.

Delta-8 drugs
Delta-8 products. Image courtesy of
In this variety of cannabis, while there are very small amounts of THC or delta-8, there is enough CBD to be useful. Chemists worked out how to convert these small quantities of CBD into delta-8. Because hemp was no longer banned, those who wished to ride on the coattails of marijuana’s popularity claimed that delta-8 was also legal because delta-8 was derived from hemp, not marijuana.

As a result, you may see stores that offer “delta-8—no medical card required.”

Delta-8 products come in many forms:

  • Oils
  • Smokable leafy products
  • Gummies
  • Softgels
  • Cartridges for vaping
  • Sweets and treats

Other Cannabis Compounds, Synthetic and Natural

Because this industry is growing so rapidly, many people are looking for any way they can to claim a piece of this market. In addition to manipulating the small quantity of cannabinoids in hemp (a plant that is more readily available than restricted high-THC marijuana plants), there is a new partially-synthetic cannabinoid being created from hemp’s cannabinoids. It is called THC-0. It has psychoactive effects and, for the moment, is considered legal because it is a product of hemp.

The U.S. Department of Justice recently reported on a case where consumption of a combination of delta-8, THC-0 and a form of CBD called CBD-di-0 resulted in visual and auditory hallucinations that triggered criminal actions resulting in arrest.

No one yet has the full information on the effects of these drugs, which ones can be harmful and which ones are relatively harmless. Cannabinoids that turn out to be harmful may one day be regulated.

It is also possible to find CBG and CBN on the market. CBG is short for cannabigerol and CBN is short for cannabinol. Both are found in tiny trace amounts in cannabis plants. Both are non-psychoactive. Again, the easy availability of hemp enables some people to obtain enough hemp to refine out the tiny quantity of CBG and CBN. These cannabinoids can then be turned into oils or edibles for sale.

This isn’t even the end of the list. Cannabis is a huge industry. Chemists and growers are going to continue to work on producing and marketing more cannabinoids from the cannabis plant to take advantage of the profits available.

Two Other Drugs You May See: Kratom and Kava

Kratom leaves
Kratom. Image courtesy of

Smoke shops that sell CBD and delta-8 may also offer kratom and kava.


According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, kratom is the name of a tropical tree in Asia. The consumption of its leaves is either stimulating or sedating, depending on how much is consumed. High doses can cause psychotic episodes and addiction.

In the U.S., kratom is consumed in tea or the leaves are crushed and smoked or placed in capsules. Kratom has been banned by six states, but it is not a federally controlled substance.


Kava. Image courtesy of

Kava is an extract or drink derived from the Piper methysticumis plant. It is sold as a dietary supplement for anxiety, insomnia or other stressful conditions. Its use, however, has been associated with severe liver injury.

The cannabis industry will likely continue growing and developing for several years. It would be wise for parents to try to monitor the types of cannabis products developed for sale and their effects so they can identify potentially hazardous products in their children’s possessions.


  • National Institutes of Health. “Cannabis (Marijuana) and Cannabinoids: What You Need To Know.” NIH, 2019. NIH.
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “BD: What You Need to Know.” CDC, 2022. CDC.
  • Food and Drug Administration. “5 Things to Know about Delta-8 Tetrahydrocannabinol – Delta-8 THC.” FDA, 2022. FDA.
  • Food and Drug Administration. “Hemp Production and the 2018 Farm Bill.” FDA, 2019. FDA.
  • Department of Justice, National Institute of Justice. “Delta(8)-THC, THC-O Acetates and CBD-di-O Acetate: Emerging Synthetic Cannabinoids Found in Commercially Sold Plant Material and Gummy Edibles.” DOJ, 2022. DOJ.
  • Drug Enforcement Administration. “Kratom.” DEA, 2020. DEA.
  • National Institutes of Health. “Kava.” NIH, 2020. NIH.


Karen Hadley

For more than a decade, Karen has been researching and writing about drug trafficking, drug abuse, addiction and recovery. She has also studied and written about policy issues related to drug treatment.