Very few plants contain as many psychoactive compounds as cannabis. Between the aromatic terpenes and dozens of different cannabinoids, the cannabis plant is a bona fide smorgasbord of potentially therapeutic molecules.
Even though humans have cultivated it for thousands of years, we’re still learning more about cannabis every day. As our collective knowledge grows, cannabis culture shifts. Recently, the industry has started to take notice of the previously obscure cannabinoid delta 8 THC.
Lots of people are taking delta 8 to relax, but would we consider it a sedative? Keep reading to find out.
What’s A Sedative?
Let’s start by defining our terms. Sedatives are a grouping of prescription drugs used to help patients manage anxiety and combat sleep disorders. Most sedatives work by altering the chemical communication system in the central nervous system.
Our bodies naturally produce a neurotransmitter called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), which has the primary function of reducing neuronal excitability. In layman's terms, GABA essentially slows down the brain. The vast majority of prescription pharmaceuticals classified as sedatives enhance the efficacy of GABA to produce their titular sedative effects.
Some common sedatives you’ve likely heard of include: Benzodiazepines (Xanax, Valium, Klonopin), Barbiturates, sedative-hypnotics like Ambien, and general anesthetics (Propofol, Nitrous Oxide, Chloroform).
Sedation Side Effects
The medical and pharmaceutical communities strongly recommend that patients only use sedatives as directed by their physician. These types of drugs can be extremely addictive and have a high potential for abuse.
In addition to the risk of addiction, sedatives also have several generally undesirable side effects. These include:
Slowed heart rate
Impaired motor skills
Increased fall risks
Risk of death from unintentional overdose
What Is Delta 8?
Delta 8 THC belongs to a class of compounds called cannabinoids—psychoactive molecules found in cannabis like CBD, CBG, and THC.
One of the most common cannabinoids out there is delta 9 THC, though you usually see it depicted sans delta 9. Delta 9 THC is the primary cannabinoid responsible for inducing the “high” associated with marijuana consumption.
Delta 8 THC has a remarkably similar molecular structure to regular old delta 9 THC. The only difference is the placement of one double bond in the atomic chain. Because delta 9 and delta 8 have such similar structures, they also produce similar effects. This means that delta 8 THC will create feelings of intoxication in users similar to conventional delta 9 THC.
Anecdotally, delta 8 THC is described as the more mellow, less impairing version of THC. Users of delta 8 often report feelings of euphoria and mild body sensations, but with less of the brain fog and perceptual changes that come with traditional THC use.
Delta 8 Side Effects
Side effects of delta 8 will be nearly identical to delta 9 THC, though typically present more mildly. These include:
Slowed reaction times
Shifts in perception
Is Delta 8 A Sedative?
Consuming delta 8 may make users feel relaxed and drowsy, but these sedative-like effects don’t make delta 8 a sedative. In fact, THC’s behavior actually inhibits GABA production—the exact opposite chemical reaction of a conventional pharmaceutical sedative.
That being said, because delta 8 does help consumers unwind and has significantly less intrusive side effects than prescription sedatives, some users do choose to use delta 8 as an alternative to sedatives.
Is Delta 8 Safe?
Unlike pharmaceutical sedatives, a person can not fatally overdose on delta 8 THC. While some of delta 8’s effects could make operating a vehicle or heavy machinery more dangerous due to the reduction in reaction time, the compound itself is generally considered to be safe.
Cannabis plants only produce a very small amount of delta 8 THC on their own. As a result, it’s not practical or profitable to extract delta 8 THC directly from cannabis plants. Instead, most manufacturers use a process called isomerization to convert CBD and delta 9 THC into delta 8 THC. As with any other cannabis concentrate, there’s a risk that a delta 8 extract could become contaminated during the manufacturing process.