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Delta-8 and Its Online Availability to Minors Raises Concerns

The vibrant colors and cartoonish imagery on some packages are just part of the appeal.

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WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Delta-8 is a substance that produces a high akin to THC. While THC is a federally banned substance, delta-8 is technically a different chemical and is therefore not federally banned. New research suggests the growing popularity of delta-8 is largely rooted in how delta-8 companies market the product to minors. 

The study abstract “Delta-8 Disaster: Exploring the Market for the Synthetic Cannabinoid Delta-8 and Its Availability to Minors Online” – presented during the American Academy of Pediatrics 2023 National Conference and Exhibition – shows that young people are more likely to try the substance when it comes in colorful packaging. 

“What is of utmost concern to me regarding Delta-8 products is the fact that delta-8 distributors appear to be competing with each other to produce packaging that will attract the attention of adolescents,” said Ruth Milanaik, MD, FAAP, associate professor of pediatrics at the Zucker School of Medicine, and principal investigator of this study. “It is vital that more regulations are put in place to ensure that these products are not appealing to teens.” 

The vibrant colors and cartoonish imagery on some packages are just part of the appeal. Cheap prices and the variety of ways delta-8 can be consumed make it an attractive alternative to THC. There is also far less regulation of delta-8 compared to THC. 

Researchers say despite safety claims, delta-8 can contain toxic by-products and intermediates. Minors may underestimate its strength and potential danger. In fact, 77% of cases of accidental delta-8 exposures in 2021 involved minors. The lack of age verification from users looking to purchase delta-8 products is also a major concern. 

The study suggests clinicians should talk with their teen patients about the dangers of delta-8, and policymakers should do more to regulate online delta-8 distributors. 

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