Updated: Mar 24
This article is brought to you by the new Higher Learning LV Core Cannabis course.
A January 2023 study entitled "Vaping THC-O Acetate: Potential for Another EVALI Epidemic" that was published in the Journal of Medical Toxicology explored the safety profile of the alt cannabinoid THC-O Acetate.
About THC-O Acetate
THC-O acetate (sometimes denoted as ATHC, THCO, or THC-O-A) is considered an "alt cannabinoid" along with other emerging cannabinoids outside of cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), including delta-8 THC, delta-10 THC, and HHC. It is notable because it is purported to deliver psychoactivity that is several times stronger than that of its mainstream chemical cousin, delta-9 THC (roughly 300 percent, but this is based on anecdotal user testimonies, not research studies).
"Unlike the other alt cannabinoids, however, THC-O acetate is not naturally occurring. Rather, this controversial cannabinoid is fully synthetic."
Unlike the other alt cannabinoids, however, THC-O acetate is not naturally occurring. Rather, this controversial cannabinoid is fully synthetic. It is most popular in states and areas where delta-9 THC remains prohibited, offering patients and consumers a quasi-legal alternative.
Unlike FECO (Full Extract Cannabis Oil) or water hash, THC-O-A cannot be created using kitchen-grade equipment. Production of this compound requires specialized equipment and training due to the involvement of volatile and flammable chemicals.
To learn more about THC-O Acetate, see our Cannabinoid Clinic article here.
THC-O Acetate molecular structure
The study revealed that THC-O Acetate—or at least the samples tested—may deliver health risks to consumers when inhaled, such as the popular form of a vape cart or pen. The study's authors warned that the commonality of THC-O Acetate, combined with the data they collected during their research, could result in an outbreak of EVALI.
One such EVALI lung disease outbreak linked to the presence of Vitamin-E acetate in cannabis vape carts that occurred in 2019 and 2020 caused more than 2,800 hospitalization and nearly 70 deaths.
"We alert the public health community to the confirmed presence of THC-O in commercially available vaping products and the potential risk of pulmonary toxicity from vaping THC-O."
"We alert the public health community to the confirmed presence of THC-O in commercially available vaping products and the potential risk of pulmonary toxicity from vaping THC-O," reported the researchers. They noted that toxicity from THC-O Acetate inhalation could be acute or chronic, although "clinical toxicity from vaping THC-O has not to the best of our knowledge been reported."
The study concluded that health care providers should consider the use of THC-O "when evaluating lung injury in people who have vaped cannabis products." It reported that THC-O edibles may be safe when ingested (eaten), but unsafe when vaporized or smoked.
View the original study.
🎧 Like what you just read? Listen and learn with our highly educational weekly Cannabis Commerce + Chemistry Podcast. At under 30 minutes per episode, it helps industry professionals stay current on trending topics.