FEBRUARY 23, 2023

What is THC-O: The Psychedelic Cannabinoid

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We have gotten to know and love a few cannabinoids at this point. THC and CBD are two notable examples. As time goes by, research advances in the world of cannabis. And there is a new kid on the block gaining popularity, primarily due to its psychotomimetic effects. 

THC-O-Acetate, often donning the monikers “spiritual cannabinoid” or “psychedelic cannabinoid,” is a synthetic cannabinoid created in a laboratory, and differs from naturally-occurring cannabinoids like THC and CBD

As we know, cannabinoids are chemical compounds that interact with the cannabinoid receptors in the brain to create physical and mental effects. While it is highly potent, has a more pronounced taste, and is known for its psychedelic effects, THC-O’s production process strips away terpenes, flavonoids, and other key characteristics of cannabis. 

Read on to learn more about THC’s trippy sibling, THC-O, the psychedelic cannabinoid.


THC-O is an acetate ester form of Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), sometimes referred to as THC acetate ester or O-acetyl-THC. Expertly referred to as THC-O acetate (ATHC or THC-Oa) it is more commonly referred to as simply THC-O. 

THC-O, like other hemp-derived cannabinoids such as delta 10 THC, has a chemical make-up almost identical to Delta 9 THC – the intoxicating compound found in cannabis plants. Its effects are comparable to Delta 9 but because it binds more strongly to the body’s cannabinoid receptors, it is much more potent than Delta 8, Delta 10, or HHC and even stronger than Delta 9. 

Unlike other, naturally occurring cannabinoids, THC-O is a synthesized cannabinoid that cannot be found in the cannabis plant, and its potency is really what makes this lab-created cannabinoid stand out from the crowd. Though it takes some time to take effect, the kick it brings is much stronger than expected. This cannabinoid has actually been around for many years, but it is only recently coming to the forefront.


Scientists in the United States military began researching this compound in 1949. The US government was looking for a substance that could temporarily disable enemy forces without any damage to American citizens. As a result, Edgewood/Aberdeen Experiments tested the effects of THC on humans and found cannabis could be used as a battlefield drug and was compared to other man-made chemicals such as LSD, PCP, and heroin for its effectiveness. 

In the 1970s, the Drug Enforcement Administration uncovered an illegal laboratory in Florida that blended cannabis extracts with acetic anhydride. Soxhlet extraction was used to obtain the extract, which is typically applied to solid material that does not dissolve well in a solvent. Acetic anhydride was then added to the extract for acetylation to create different reactions in the body, and the excessive acetic anhydride was later removed by distillation.  

Despite a somewhat tenured history outside of public consumption, only in recent years has THC-O gained any recognition among consumers. According to Google Trends, interest peaked around mid-2021. However, safety data and quality control testing have been of considerable concern due to the limited history of human use, as well as potentially toxic chemicals used in the production process. Additionally, determining the legality of THC-O-acetate in parts of the world where cannabis is legal can be a complex and varying issue between different jurisdictions. 


As is the case for all cannabinoids, THC-O interacts with the endocannabinoid system of the human body. Despite its natural counterpart Delta 10 being relatively weak, this synthesized cannabinoid proves to be much stronger. It must first be metabolized by the liver so that you can experience its effects. 

THC-O’s potency essentially boils down to bioavailability. And the effects are entirely dose-dependent.  

The acetylated form of THC is noticeably more bioavailable than its non-acetylated version. After the cannabis is completely absorbed, the special compounds are burned off and leave only a much more potent dose of THC to take effect. Since THC-O is naturally a prodrug, there may be a slight delay in feeling its full effects. A frequent blunder made when taking any kind of THC is assuming extra should be taken. If you do not notice the effects after roughly an hour, allow additional time for it to take effect. 

Comparing the effects of THC-O to that of Delta 8, Delta 10, or HHC is largely subjective. However, by most testimonies, THC-O produces a more intense high than Delta 8 and other THC forms. Additionally, the psychoactive effects of THC-O tend to be markedly different from other forms, with users often describing it as a somewhat psychedelic experience containing near-hallucinogenic effects. For this reason, experts and sellers alike advise new users to start slowly when experimenting with this powerful cannabinoid. 

Many users of THC-O report they experience a mix of bodily sensations, energy boost, enhanced awareness, heightened joy, psychedelic impacts, as well as serenity. People who ingest THC-O can experience powerful effects that may promote introspection, creativity, understanding, and insight. 


As of February 2023, THC-O is not considered a legal substance. Unlike Delta 8 THC or other hemp-derived cannabinoids, THC-O does not occur naturally in hemp plants and is thus regarded as a federally illegal controlled substance by federal law enforcement agencies. 

The Drug Enforcement Administration could take strict enforcement action at any time against those who produce or sell THC-O, such as seizing products, arresting personnel, and prosecuting companies and individuals for violating the Controlled Substances Act. 

However, several of the same online retailers that sell CBD, Delta 8, Delta 10, HHC, and THCP also carry THC-O products. Additionally, one can find these products at convenience stores, head shops, gas stations, and in certain vape shops. 


While THC and THC-O have similar effects, the latter is more potent and synthetic in origin. Research is still being conducted as to whether THC-O has fewer medical benefits than its natural counterpart, though no conclusions have been made yet. 

The most notable distinction between regular cannabis and THC-O is the psychedelic high it produces. Some users even report mild visual effects. Generally speaking, this variant of weed is significantly more potent than your everyday strain

Additionally, obtaining THC-O-acetate can be a challenge due to its limited availability. Not many producers and vendors carry it, leading to a greater demand than supply, and thus driving up the cost. 

THC-O can offer a more subtle trip than those caused by psilocybin or LSD, for example. For those wishing to explore the world of psychedelics, it may be the place to start. While the effects of THC-O will not be as intense as other psychedelics, they can still create a mind-altering experience. With care and caution, it can provide an enjoyable but short-lived psychedelic trip. 

The positive effects of THC-O include a mild psychedelic trip, while the negative effects are similar to those of regular THC, such as dry mouth, increased hunger, and fatigue. Depending on how one feels about psychedelics, it can be an enjoyable experience or one to be avoided. For those who are new to psychedelics, THC-O may be a great place to start experimenting, albeit with caution. 


Two studies have raised alarms regarding vaping or smoking THC-O. Unfortunately, when THC-O is subject to extreme heat, it can undergo thermal degradation, resulting in the formation of a dangerous lung toxicant called ketene. 

Cannabis itself, as well as vaping, are generally considered safe. However, the combination of heat and acetate chemicals, such as THC, can create a dangerous reaction that results in the formation of ketene. 

While it is unclear if the amount of ketene produced by vaping THC-O is immediately hazardous to users, it can potentially cause lung damage if exposed to it over time. As a result, it has been suggested that cannabis users avoid vaping or smoking THC-O or any other acetate form of a cannabinoid.  

Fortunately, it appears that using THC-O gummies and tinctures is not a health risk. 


Research on the effects of THC-O is ongoing, so if you decide to take this route, we recommend doing your own research beforehand. Remember, knowledge is key when it comes to drug use – staying informed will ensure that you have a safe and fun experience. 

Furthermore, consider avoiding vaping or smoking THC-O due to the toxicant ketene that is produced due to heat which may potentially lead to lung damage over a longer period of time. 

For a wide range of THC-O products that don’t require smoking, such as gummies and tinctures, Binoid is a good place to start.

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