THC acetate ester (THC-O) and tetrahydrocannabiphorol (THCP) are chemical compounds and variants of delta-9 THC.
THC-O is a synthetic analog and pro-drug of delta-9 and does not occur naturally in cannabis. Under laboratory conditions, it’s often chemically synthesized from delta-9 or tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA). THC-O causes a euphoric high with significant hallucinogenic effects in high doses.
In contrast, THCP is a natural cannabinoid and is present in specific cannabis cultivars, most notably FM2. THCP has a seven-link alkyl side-chain and induces a more potent high than THC-O and most other THC variants. THCP does not cause hallucinogenic effects like THC-O.
Consuming THC-O and THCP separately or together is not recommended for beginners unaccustomed to cannabis or intoxicating highs. Delta-8 is a safer, more enjoyable option.
Researchers believe THC-O and THCP have benefits similar to delta-8 and delta-9, including pain relief, anti-inflammation, stress reduction, sleep promotion, and general health and wellness.
THC-O vs THCP: The main differences
THC-O and THCP belong to the family of “tetrahydrocannabinols.” This family includes delta-8, delta-10, THCV, and HHC. As analogs of delta-9 THC, both cannabinoids have molecular structures similar to delta-9 but with slight variations. These variations mean they behave differently in your body and produce unique effects.
- THC-O is a semi-synthetic cannabinoid and doesn’t occur naturally in cannabis. It’s also a prodrug, meaning it becomes fully active after the metabolization process.
- Conversely, THCP is a cannabinoid present naturally in cannabis plants and is already active before entering your body.
- THCP is more potent than THC-O. THCP is two times stronger than THC-O and roughly 10-times more potent than delta-9 (THC). In contrast, THC-O is approximately two to three times more powerful than THC.
- High doses of THC-O cause hallucinogenic and psychedelic effects, resulting in noticeable visual distortions and a heightened emotional state. The exact reason for these effects is still unknown.
- Neither THC-O nor THCP is suitable for beginner users. The potent euphoric high associated with both is often overwhelming. Some adverse side effects include anxiety, panic, and physical sensations. We recommend sticking to delta-8 or delta-9.
- THC-O and THCP have similar benefits. In lower doses, they might reduce stress and produce relaxing effects. They could also alleviate pain, inflammation, and sleep problems. Higher doses can exacerbate anxiety and stress.
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THCP and THC-O’s discovery
THCP and THC-O were both discovered roughly 70 years apart.
The US Army first investigated THC-O between 1949 and 1975 during the Edgewood Arsenal Experiments. It caused severe ataxia in canines, as did delta-9. Ataxia is the involuntary coordination of muscle movements resulting from nervous system dysfunction.
THCP’s discovery is a different story. In 2019, a research team accidentally found THCP in a cannabis cultivar called FM2, supplied by the Italian military. The team used advanced mass spectronomy and liquid chromatography, which gave them a detailed look into the plant matter. They also discovered CBDP, a derivative of CBD.
How do THC-O and THCP work?
THC-O and THCP interact with your endocannabinoid system, a complex biological network regulating core functions such as sleep, mood, appetite, and body temperature.
THC-O and THCP target your cannabinoid 1 (CB1) receptors in the brain and central nervous system.
CB1 receptor targeting not only induces a euphoric high but also contributes to certain health benefits, including:
- Pain relief
- Sleep promotion
- Mental and physical relaxation
Will THC-O get you higher than THCP?
No, THC-O will not get you higher than THCP.
THCP is two times stronger than THC-O, 10-times stronger than delta-9, and roughly 15-times more potent than delta-8 THC. However, THCP does not cause hallucinogenic or psychedelic effects like THC-O in any dose.
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Anecdotal evidence suggests THCP causes non-psychedelic similar to delta-9, with added mental and physical sensations.
The onset of THC-O and THCP’s euphoric effects depends on the product type:
- Vape carts — THC-O and THCP vape carts give you an almost instant high because they enter into your bloodstream via your lungs, bypassing the metabolization process altogether. THCP’s effects begin within 10 minutes. THC-O’s effects start within 20 minutes.
- Oils & tinctures — THC-O and THC-P oils and tinctures placed sublingually (under your tongue) take slightly longer to work in your body. You begin to feel the THCP’s effects within 20-30 minutes. THCO’s effects start within an hour.
- Gummies — THC-O and THCP gummies are orally ingested, and effects take between 30-60 minutes to begin in your body. Patience is key. We recommend eating half a gummy first before taking more.
Why does THCP cause a more potent high than THC-O?
THCP is more potent than THC-O because of the length of its alkyl side chain. THCP has a seven-link alkyl side chain, while THC-O has a five-link alkyl side chain.
An alkyl side chain—otherwise known as the “main chain” or “backbone”—is a string of carbon atoms that indicates how a cannabinoid interacts with your body’s receptors, specifically your cannabinoid receptors.
For cannabinoids to affect your cannabinoid receptors, their side chains must contain at least three carbon atoms. The number of carbon atoms directly correlates with the cannabinoid’s efficacy at your cannabinoid receptors, which is why THCP is the most potent natural THC variant present in cannabis.
Are THC-O and THCP stronger than HHC?
THCP and THC-O are stronger than hexahydrocannabinol (HHC), a naturally-occurring cannabinoid and THC isomer with a similar potency to delta-9.
THCP is roughly eight to ten times stronger than HHC, and THC-O is approximately four to five times more potent. HHC is more beginner-friendly and won’t induce a significant euphoric high. Many users consume HHC with CBD for a relaxing experience.
Are THC-O and THCP stronger than delta-8 THC?
Yes, THC-O and THCP are significantly more potent than delta-8 THC. THC-O is approximately four to five times more powerful than delta-8, while THCP is over ten times stronger.
Users often refer to delta-8 as diet weed. It has a much more subtle and relaxing high, even when compared to delta-9.
Delta-8 products are perfectly suitable for beginners, especially ones who cannot tolerate a delta-9 high. Many users report experiencing no paranoia or anxiety, both common side effects of delta-9 consumption.
Can you mix THC-O and THCP with alcohol?
You can mix THC-O and THCP with alcohol, but we wouldn’t recommend doing it. Alcohol can exacerbate the effects of all THC variants, especially if you drink before consuming cannabis.
One study shows that alcohol affects the way your body absorbs THC. Participants who drank alcohol before vaporizing cannabis had noticeably higher peak THC levels than those who consumed a placebo.
However, other studies show that alcohol consumption before consuming weed had a minimal effect on peak THC levels. Researchers even believe weed might delay or prevent the onset of drunkenness.
THC-O vs THCP: Are they both legal?
THC-O and THCP’s legality is open to debate.
While the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) doesn’t explicitly list these cannabinoids as federally illegal, they’re still considered THC analogs with molecular structures similar to delta-9, potentially placing them under the Federal Analogue Act (FAA) by default. All substances under the FAA are treated as schedule I or schedule II controlled substances.
However, cannabis companies across the US believe THC-O and THCP are legal under the Farm Bill 2018 (Agriculture Improvement Act), provided they’re derived from lawful hemp plants carrying no more than 0.3% THC (by dry weight).
Are marijuana-derived THC-O and THCP legal?
No, marijuana-derived THC-O and THCP aren’t legal on the federal level. The Controlled Substances Act (CSA) prohibits the use, possession, sale, distribution, promotion, and production of cannabis products carrying over 0.3% THC (by dry weight). The importation and transportation of high-THC marijuana are also prohibited under federal law.
However, many US states overrule federal law and allow medical and recreational marijuana, including cannabis-derived THC-O and THCP. 38 US states permit high-THC cannabis for medicinal purposes, with 18 allowing adults access to recreational cannabis. In these states, it’s possible to purchase marijuana-derived THC-O and THCP.
Is THC-O or THCP better for sleep?
THC-O is generally better for sleep than THCP. THC-O targets CB1 receptors in the brain and boosts GABA production to promote a healthier sleep-wake cycle. GABA is a special inhibitory neurotransmitter that controls nerve cell hyperactivity, slows the brain down, and helps induce a sense of calm.
Users often mix THC-O and CBD to combat insomnia and other sleep-related issues. CBD helps fight symptoms of insomnia, REM sleep disorder and excessive daytime sleep disorder by targeting various central nervous system receptors, including CB2 and 5-HT1A (hydroxytryptamine) serotonin.
Is THC-O or THCP better for anxiety and stress?
THC-O and THCP are fantastic cannabinoids for anxiety and stress, but only when dosed correctly. THC-O and especially THCP can be anxiety-inducing if taken in large doses, causing a range of side effects such as mental discomfort, overwhelming physical sensations, noticeable memory loss, and paranoia.
We recommend taking THC-O and THCP separately. Combining them will likely overwhelm your CB1 receptors and exacerbate anxiety symptoms to the point of causing panic attacks.
We also advise you to consume a broad-spectrum CBD product alongside THC-O or THC-P. Broad-spectrum CBD includes various calming and soothing cannabinoids, including CBG and CBC.
Safety concerns surrounding THC-O and THCP
Despite the benefits of consuming THC-O and THCP, there’s one rather significant caveat, and it’s to do with safety.
To create THC-O and THCP products, producers simply can’t extract them from cannabis plants and place them in bottles. There’s not enough natural THCP in cannabis, and THC-O doesn’t exist organically. Producers must chemically synthesize THC-O and THCP from other cannabinoids under laboratory conditions to get around this issue. Some chemicals used can be harmful to your health.
For example, synthesizing THC-O requires acetate anhydride, a highly-flammable chemical compound used in dyes, plastics, fibers, and some pharmaceutical products. During the purification process, producers must remove any traces of acetate anhydride due to its corrosive properties, which can severely irritate or damage your body.
It’s almost impossible to know whether your THCP and THC-O products are completely safe or not. Many areas of the cannabis industry remain unregulated, and some products out there are produced under substandard conditions.
We recommend checking the product’s Certificates of Analysis (COAs) and the company’s reputation before purchasing.
How do THC-O and THCP compare to other upcoming cannabinoids?
Compared to CBD
- CBD is similar to THCP insofar as being a cannabinoid naturally present in cannabis. However, CBD appears in much larger quantities.
- While THC-O and THCP are intoxicating cannabinoids capable of inducing a euphoric high, CBD is non-intoxicating and will not generate any euphoric effects.
- CBD’s lack of intoxication means it’s suitable for all users, from beginners to more experienced cannabis consumers.
- Unlike THC-O and THCP, CBD does not activate CB1 receptors. It interacts with other receptors instead, including 5-HT1A (serotonin), TRPV1 (vanilloid), and PPARS (peroxisome proliferator activated receptors).
- CBD’s interaction with 5-HT1A is essential. Studies show that 5-HT1A activation helps combat anxiety, stress, addiction, sleep problems, pain, and nausea. Likewise, TRPV1 activation reduces inflammation and regulates body temperature.
Compared to CBN
- THC-O, THCP, and CBN are all intoxicating, but to different degrees. As mentioned, THC-O and THCP cause moderate-to-high euphoria depending on the dose. However, CBN only induces a mild high in substantial amounts.
- CBN has a weak binding affinity with your CB1 receptors. Research shows CBN is better at activating CB2 receptors. CBN also activates TRPA1 channels responsible for pain and pain perception.
- THCP consumption might also result in reduced pain symptoms, but its exact mechanism of action is still unknown.
Conclusion: Should you purchase THC-O or THCP products?
THC-O and THCP are still in their infancy, and there’s so much more we need to learn about them. As a general rule, we recommend purchasing THC-O and THCP from legitimate vendors specializing in rare minor cannabinoids. That way, you reduce the risk of purchasing (and consuming) unsafe products. We also advise that you don’t consume THC-O or THCP unless you have experience with cannabis. Both cannabinoids are incredibly potent, especially THCP.