Researchers analyzed posts on Reddit to determine the trends in discussion of the cannabinoid
RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. — A new study by experts at the nonprofit research institute RTI International offers a glimpse at people’s perceptions of and experiences with Delta-8 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), a cannabinoid sometimes referred to as “weed light” that has recently grown exponentially in popularity. Results of the study were published by RTI Press, a global publisher of peer-reviewed, open-access publications, in a research brief.
Using data from the social media platform Reddit, the researchers found that there were almost 60,000 posts about Delta-8 in the first 11 months of 2020. The peak in daily posts coincided with the Drug Enforcement Administration’s interim ruling regarding CBD and the 2018 Farm Bill, the brief notes, which suggested a “widespread interest among users in the legal status of Delta-8 products.”
Reddit users most frequently discussed types of products that contain Delta-8, how products could be sold or purchased, and overall safety and legality of products containing the cannabinoid, according to the brief. Many users described their first-time experiencing Delta-8, often noting a body high and clear-headedness that differentiated it from Delta-9 THC, the more common cannabinoid that is federally illegal.
“Our findings demonstrate how social media can be an important data source when it comes to understanding new trends and risks in health behavior,” said Glen Szczypka, a social media researcher at RTI and lead author of the brief. “This is especially true for cannabinoids such as Delta-8 — potential adverse effects are simply not well studied or understood yet. We can potentially learn about those from social media before other sources.”
Delta-8 is derived from cannabidiol (CBD), which can be extracted from hemp. The 2018 Farm Bill reclassified hemp, removing it from the list of controlled substances and allowing the sale of hemp products in states where cannabis is illegal. Delta-8 derived from CBD is federally legal as a result, but certain states have since explicitly banned the cannabinoid. Many Reddit users correctly believed that Delta-8 is federally legal, Szczypka and his colleagues found.
The study follows up on similar RTI-led research that examined Reddit posts in the context of an outbreak of lung injuries caused by e-cigarettes.