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THC-O Acetate: More Potent and Psychedelic Than Delta 9 THC

Written by Alexandra Hicks

THC-O gets very little attention in the cannabis industry and most consumers are probably completely unaware of its existence. However, it’s an emerging trend that users claim is more potent than Delta 9 THC and said to produce very uplifting experiences. The strength of this compound, and the fact that it’s extremely discreet and produces no aroma when vaped, could have several implications for both the medical and recreational markets.

The emergence of THC-O can take the world of cannabis into a whole new direction. However, we know way less about it than we do about delta-8 THC, another newcomer to the cannabis products market. Delta-8 is interesting because it functions much like delta-9 THC, but without producing anxiety and paranoia, or couch locking users. In fact, delta-8 is associated with a more clear-headed high and more energy in general, which makes it preferable for many cannabis users. Are you one of them? Check out our assortment of Delta-8 THC deals and order some today.

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What is THC-O?

THC-O is short for THC-O-Acetate, or THC Acetate/ATHC. Most of the time, you’ll see it written as THC-O or ATHC. It’s important not to confuse ATHC with THCA. In the case of tetrahyrdocannabinolic acid, or THCA, the A stands for acid (not acetate like with ATHC). THCA is the parent molecule of THC, found in raw plants that have not yet been decarboxylated.

THC-O is a synthetic cannabinoid that can only be produced in a lab. While it may be tempting to try and make some at home, the process can be volatile and dangerous, so it’s best left to the chemists. In short, THC-O is an analog of THC, meaning is has a similar chemical structure but, as is the case in chemistry, minor changes often lead to substantial differences.

Because it’s an artificially produced cannabinoid, what you see is what you get – meaning all you get is THC-O and none of the beneficial terpenes and flavonoids that are found in natural extracts. With THC-O, you do not get to benefit from the entourage effect. This is an obvious issue for purists and whole-plant advocates, but when it comes to pharmaceutical formulations, isolated cannabinoids are always preferred.


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The purity of isolates means that 1 milligram of concentrated oil measures out to exactly 1 milligram of cannabinoid, whereas 1 milligram of full-spectrum plant extract might have 0.5 milligrams of THC, 0.3 milligrams of CBD, and 0.2 milligrams a combination of other terpenes and compounds. This makes isolates very easy to use for specific dosing and product production.

According to Serge Chistov, the inventor of Nanobidiol Technology, his team has found a safe and efficient method to acetylate THC using only approved solvents. Chistov says his team “developed the analytical standard for testing for THC-O, as well as being in the final stages of introducing products to retail outlets.” So, if everything stays on track, we can expect to see THC-O therapeutics relatively soon.

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The THCA to THC-O Conversion

Back to the THCA vs ATHC/THC-O. We covered the difference between the two (acid vs acetate), now it’s time to discuss how THCA can be converted to THC-O. Again, it’s a complex chemical process that should only be attempted in a professional laboratory setting, this is NOT something that can be done safely at home.

Carboxylic acid and hydroxyl groups are both polar and hydrophilic, meaning small amounts of THCA (or any other cannabinoid acid) are water soluble. Using two chemicals – sulfuric acid and acetic anhydride – begins the conversion process.

When THCA is converted to THC-O- Acetate, the polar C-OH becomes C-O-CH2C=O-CH3. The carboxylic acid group is hydrolyzed (forms water) by the heating with the sulfuric acid, which then reacts with excess anhydride to produce acetic acid. This acid reacts with regular THC at the hydroxyl group and becomes the potent THC-O-Acetate.

Is THC-O 300 Percent More Potent Than THC?

We already know that THC and THC-O are chemically similar, but that small variation in structure translates to a huge difference in potency. To be specific, reports claim that THC-O is about 300 percent stronger than regular Delta 9 THC (a 300 percent increase would be 4 the original value). It really makes you appreciate the tremendous impact of these tiny molecular changes.

There are times when THC, despite how amazing it is, doesn’t seem powerful enough to accomplish the task at hand, especially when used for pain, digestive disorders, and other chronic health conditions. THC-O is not only much more potent, but our bodies recognize it as a completely different compound, so although you may have developed a tolerance to THC, you can still use THC-O and experience the full effects.

“The prodrug [THC-O] enters the system as a Trojan horse. The body sees the horse, the body tries to destroy the horse, keeping the insides of the horse available for the body to process. This means the THC inside of the prodrug preparation will not be metabolized into 11-hydroxy-THC at the same rate and speed as the native THC molecule. That change in the metabolic perception of the body is what is partially responsible for the effect that most people describe as different,” Chistov explains.

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Even recreationally, it has its place and sounds like it could be interesting. There is a huge market of people searching for more potent cannabis products, which is exactly how concentrates came to be. It might sound intimidating to some, supposedly being much stronger than D9 THC, but for people who like to experiment (myself included), it sounds like something worth trying at least once. Those who have had the opportunity to try it have stated that it’s a much more spiritual, psychedelic, and introspective high than what they are used to from regular THC. Even some regular cannabis users noticed a difference.

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Final Thoughts

Although THC-O is very tempting and highly beneficial, you’re unlikely to find very many products containing this compound just yet. Some online retailers are selling vape carts and similar, but without knowing much about these companies it’s hard to say whether the products are legit or not. When it comes to cannabis, especially newer compounds, it’s best to stick to the most reputable sellers you can find. If you need guidance, you can always check with your local dispensary to see if they have any leads, although it is not guaranteed they will know where to find any.

Regardless, if you can find it, THC-O is an interesting cannabinoid for both therapeutic and recreational purposes. The acetate version of THC can be helpful when the real compound doesn’t work as expected. Especially, since every human is at least slightly different biologically, with some patients needing different products to achieve the desired effect. “Because THC-O affects the receptors differently, the effect might be beneficial to people who might not receive relief from conventional THC or other formulations,” Chistov says.

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As cannabis legalization measures continue to progress throughout the world, more will be available to us in both the recreational and pharmaceutical sectors. Once the research floodgates open up completely, we can look forward to some incredibly pure and potent cannabis products hitting the store shelves. For now, remember to check out our Delta 8 Weekly Newsletter for more articles and exclusive deals on legal psychoactive cannabinoids.

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  • This article is full of typos, and scientific inaccuracies. There is no proven evidence that this is “300% stronger” than THC. The synthesis is not simple and contains toxic, dangerous chemicals. You shouldn’t be promoting unknown unproven technologies by suggesting the dosing is easy. Irresponsible at best, dangerous to consumers at worst. BTW, I am a PhD chemist who works in the cannabis space in an ISO-accredited cannabis testing facility. I know what I’m talking about.

    • First of all, the article has been proofed thoroughly already. Second, I believe you completely misunderstood what I was saying in the article. At numerous points I mentioned that creating THC-O is NOT a safe process and should never be attempted at home. Also, in regards to dosing, I was stating that dosing with isolated cannabinoids is easier than full spectrum, and that is accurate. Nothing in this article is dangerous to consumers in any way.

About the author

Alexandra Hicks

Managing editor at Cannadelics and U.S based journalist, helping spread the word about the many benefits of using cannabis and psychedelics.