What Is Delta-11 THC? A Look at the Benefits and Side Effects

Delta-11 THC is a semisynthetic, low-power version of delta-9 THC.

Dr. Abraham Benavides is an international cannabis science advisor, health coach, and full-tuition merit scholar of the GW School of Medicine. Abe pioneered and published first-author research with the Cannabis...

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Cannabis scientist extracting delta-11 THC from the plant
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Delta-11 THC, or “exo THC”, is a non-natural rearrangement of the more familiar delta-9 THC. With few animal studies available, we can estimate that it most likely has similar potential, but less effectiveness, than delta-9 THC. 

Modern research estimates that delta-11 may have up to approximately one-third the psychotropic effects of delta-9 THC. Previously, the earliest studies initially indicated 25 times less potency. 

Therefore, there may be similar potential benefits as with delta-9, but delta-11 THC has never been clinically studied to confirm any benefits. Similarly, we could also reasonably expect side effects like those of classic THC as well. 

What Is Delta-11 THC? 

Delta-11 THC is also called delta-9,11-THC, Δ 9(11)-THC, and rocks the flashy name “exo THC.” It was synthetically developed in the early 1970s. The prefix “exo” refers to the fact that the psychoactive double bond is located outside of THC’s rings, quite different from where it usually lies. 

Just like how delta-8 or delta-10 THC are THC “isomers”, the only difference between all these compounds and delta-9 is where the double bond is. This unique structural placement gives delta-11 a different way of interacting with cannabinoid receptors. 

Today’s delta-11 products are semisynthetic, meaning they start with hemp CBD and add a series of harsh chemicals to arrive at delta-11. For consumers, choosing a quality manufacturer is essential to getting a safe product that is free of any harmful synthetic byproducts or contaminants.

Delta-11 THC vs. THC

  • Delta-11 is approximately up to one-third as psychoactive as delta-9 THC, and share much in common
  • State-legal dispensaries carry natural, high-quality, lab-tested THC cannabis products while semisynthetic delta-11 remains unregulated

Delta-11 THC vs. CBD

  • CBD is the main, natural nonpsychotropic cannabinoid in cannabis, while delta-11 products are lab-made from CBD and will get you high
  • Delta-11 acts on CB1 and CB2 receptors, while CBD works elsewhere
  • CBD may reduce some adverse effects of the delta-9 THC, while the psychiatric risk of delta-11 is likely similar to delta-9 (e.g. anxiety)

What Are the Benefits and Effects of Delta-11 THC?

Early animal studies on delta-11 suggest THC-like effects. In the absence of clinical studies, we may reasonably expect similar effects to delta-9 THC when delta-11 is given in relatively moderate to higher doses.

Modern research currently supports that delta-9 may be useful in:

  • Chronic pain
  • Cancer
  • Nausea and vomiting, especially caused by chemotherapy
  • Muscle spasticity, particularly in multiple sclerosis
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Epilepsy and seizures
  • PTSD, Tourette syndrome, and neuroprotective effects
  • Increasing appetite, and decreasing weight loss in HIV/AIDS
  • Alzheimer’s, ALS, and stroke
  • Crohn’s disease

What’s fascinating is that most research on THC isomers like delta-11 happened before 1990. At that time, scientists didn’t know about CB1, CB2, or the endocannabinoid system until a couple of years later (1992-1994). 

For instance, a 1991 study on delta-11 hypothesizes the existence of a “THC receptor” but with “no strong evidence” at that time. Cannabis science has evolved much since then, but not much for delta-11.

What Are the Side Effects of Delta-11 THC? 

Consequently, the side effects of delta-11-THC are probably very similar to those of delta-9 THC, and also self-limited. The likelihood of these side effects increases with the dose, potentially including:

  • Fast heart rate
  • Cognitive impairment
  • Intoxication, including euphoria or dysphoria
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Dry mouth and eyes

An important note is that the quality of the product really matters. Retail hemp-derived delta-11 THC is not subject to the same quality controls as cannabis products sold in licensed dispensaries. Because delta-11 is semisynthetic, there may be other byproducts or unknown compounds present that can present unknown health risks, drug interactions, or EVALI, if vaped.

How Much Delta-11 THC Should You Take? 

Since delta-11 is roughly less than or equal to one-third the potency of delta-9 THC, you can start with similar edible doses of 5 to 10 mg. Once you’ve established how it makes you feel at those doses, you can begin experimenting in the 10 mg to 20 mg range with experience.

Consumers who opt for vaporized delta-11 products can reasonably start with two to four puffs every one to two hours to gauge the effects. 

There aren’t any formal guidelines for dosing delta-11. If you need more help picking a dose or choosing another cannabinoid that may be more suitable for your needs, then you should speak to your healthcare provider and an experienced cannabis coach.

Will Delta-11 THC Get You High?

Yes, delta-11 THC has the right ingredients arranged in such a way that will replicate the high that people know and associate with delta 9-THC. 

A 2018 research report by The WHO on THC isomers summarizes that delta-11 potency is estimated to be about one-third that of delta-9 THC. However, this data is based on early animal studies on rats, dogs, and rhesus monkeys. 

We need human studies to determine exactly how high you could get, but it’s likely notably less than delta-9 and even delta-8, often called “diet weed”.

Will Delta-11 THC Show Up on a Drug Test?

Yes, delta-11 THC and its metabolites are very similar to delta-9’s. There is a decent chance that they can show up on a drug test. In a recent 2022 forensic review, the cross-reactivity of delta-11 THC was 25% in an enzyme test.

Interestingly, delta-11 has a double bond at carbon #11 which gives it a more diverse metabolite profile than either delta-9 or delta-8 THC. Earlier studies in the 80’s and 90’s suggest delta-11 metabolites are similarly hydroxylated, just like delta-9 is metabolized into the main target of drug testing, 11-COOH-THC. 


Delta-11 appears to be an even more watered-down version of delta-9 and even delta-8 but without any clinical research. 

Consumers looking for delta-11 THC products should be aware of their semisynthetic nature which creates potential risks and only choose high-quality manufacturers who provide comprehensive lab reports.


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