THC-O vs. THCP: What’s the Difference?
This article focuses on the differences between THC-O and THCP. We break down the properties of each compound, explore their potential benefits and risks, and compare them to other psychoactive cannabinoids in hemp plants.
THC acetate ester (THC-O) and tetrahydrocannabiphorol (THCP) are analogs of delta-9 THC. Both are stronger than the “original” THC and better suited for seasoned cannabis users.
THC-O is a synthetic compound and pro-drug of delta-9. It doesn’t naturally occur in cannabis plants. Manufacturers extract THC-O in lab conditions, synthesizing it from tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA). THC-O induces strong euphoria and can trigger hallucinogenic effects in large doses.
THCP, on the other hand, is a naturally synthesized cannabinoid present in certain cannabis strains. THCP comes with a seven-bond alkyl side-chain and creates even stronger psychedelic sensations than THC-O, but it doesn’t cause hallucinations.
Beginners should steer away from THC-O and THCP due to their remarkable psychoactive potential, but if you’re a seasoned user, this article is for you.
Here we explore the differences between THC-O and THCP, including the type of effects, safety profiles, legality, and where to buy such products.
THC-O vs. THCP: Summary of the Main Differences
THC-O and THCP derive from the class of “tetrahydrocannabinols.” This group of compounds includes different versions of THC, such as delta-7, delta-8, delta-9, delta-10, HHC, and THCV.
Related: What Is THCP?
THC-O and THCP are analogs of delta-9 THC, meaning they have a similar chemical structure — but act differently in your body and offer a different level of psychoactive experience.
- THC-O is a semi-synthetic cannabinoid. Cannabis plants don’t produce it; it’s also a pro-drug, meaning it won’t take effect until your body metabolizes it.
- THCP is already active before it enters your body. It’s also a naturally occurring cannabinoid, but you won’t find it in high concentrations in cannabis strains.
- THCP is stronger than THC-O. Its potency is around 200% higher than that of THC-O. In contrast, THC-O is three times stronger than THC, so you can imagine what THCP can do to your high.
- High doses of THC-O can induce hallucinations, resulting in a heightened emotional state and a deeply spiritual experience. The mechanism behind such effects remains unknown.
- None of these cannabinoids is suitable for novice users. The potent euphoric high can be overwhelming and confusing. Some side effects of THC-O and THCP include elevated anxiety, paranoia, and a racing heart. We recommend trying out delta-8 THC before you take stronger analogs.
- THC-O and THCP offer similar benefits. Low doses can reduce stress, alleviate the symptoms of depression, and mitigate pain. They could also relieve inflammation, protect neurons, and act against free radicals.
How Were THC-O and THCP Discovered?
THCP is the “younger cousin” of THC-O.
The US army first discovered THC-O in the 1940s during the Edgewood Arsenal Experiment on canines. It caused severe ataxia in the nervous system of the subjects. Ataxia is an involuntary nervous system dysfunction that causes problems with coordination and muscle movements (1).
Related: What Is THC-O?
THCP was discovered much later, in 2019, when the Italian military found small concentrations of this cannabinoid in a cannabis strain called FM2 (2). Using advanced mass spectrology and liquid chromatography, the research team could distinguish the compound by getting a detailed look into the plant matter. They also discovered CBDP, an analog of CBD.
How Do THC-O and THCP Work?
THC-O and THCP interact with the endocannabinoid system (ECS), a vast neurochemical network that regulates core functions, such as memory, mood, appetite, fertility, body temperature, pain, immune responses, fear perception, sleep, etc. (3).
Both compounds are strong agonists of CB1 receptors in the brain and central nervous system.
The CB1 receptor is the mediator of the euphoric high, but it also provides certain health benefits, such as (4):
- Pain relief
- Sleep improvements
- Physical and mental relaxation
Is THC-O Stronger than THCP? (Which One Gets You Higher)
No, it’s the other way around.
THC-O is 300% stronger than delta-9 THC, which heralds a remarkably potent high.
But, THCP is 2x stronger than THC-O, making it ten times stronger than delta-9 and about 15 times stronger than delta-8 THC.
However, unlike THC-O, THCP doesn’t induce hallucinations in high doses.
According to anecdotal evidence, THCP creates similar sensations to delta-9, with added physical and mental effects.
The onset and type of effects depend on the product type:
- Edibles – when cannabinoids are ingested orally, the effects take between 30–90 minutes to kick in, depending on your metabolism and whether you take THC-O or THCP on a full or empty stomach. They also strengthen the psychoactive potential of both compounds and last longer than other forms.
- Vape carts – THC-O and THCP distillate can be mixed with terpenes to create vaping liquids. The effects start within 20 minutes and last for up to 4 hours.
- Tinctures – oils and tinctures provide relatively high bioavailability. You take them under the tongue and swallow after around 60 seconds. You should be able to feel the effects of THCP or THC-O within 30 minutes.
Why Does THCP Get You Higher than THC-O?
The extreme potency of THCP stems from the length of its alkyl side chain. THCP has a seven-link alkyl side chain, while THC-O comes with a five-link alkyl side chain.
An alkyl side chain also called the “backbone” or the “main chain,” is a line of carbon atoms that determines how cannabinoids interact with your body’s cannabinoid receptors.
Cannabinoids must contain at least three carbon of atoms. Their number is directly associated with the cannabinoid’s binding affinity with these receptors, which is why THCP is the strongest of all THC analogs.
Are THC-O and THCP More Potent than HHC?
THC-O and THCP produce stronger psychoactive effects than hexahydrocannabinol (HHC), a naturally occurring cannabinoid with similar strength to delta-9.
THC-O is only 5x stronger than HHC, while THCP is around 10x stronger. HHC is a more beginner-friendly version with potency measured at 80% of delta-9 THC.
It won’t get you super high, but many people are touting HHC for its relaxing and motivating effects, especially when combined with CBD.
Are THC-O and THCP More Potent than Delta-8?
Yes, both THC-O and THCP are stronger than delta-8. THC-O is approximately 5x more powerful than delta-8, while THCP is 15x stronger.
Delta-8 is often dubbed ‘diet weed.’ Its psychoactive effects are more delicate and offer a relaxing high, even at high doses.
Delta-8 THC is the best analog for beginners, especially for those sensitive to the effects of delta-9 THC.
Can You Take THC-O and THCP with Alcohol?
Yes, but they don’t go hand in hand, and we don’t recommend doing it. Alcohol can worsen the side effects of all THC variants, especially if you binge on both.
According to one study, alcohol affects the absorption rates of THC. Subjects who drank booze before vaporizing cannabis reached significantly higher peak THC concentrations than those who consumed cannabis alone (5).
However, other studies haven’t found such associations. Some researchers even believe weed may delay the onset of drunkenness or prevent it.
THC-O vs. THCP: Are They Legal?
The legal status of THC-O and THCP isn’t so obvious.
The Controlled Substances Act (CSA) doesn’t specify these cannabinoids as federally illegal. It only covers delta-9 THC. However, THC analogs fall under the Federal Analogue Act (FAA) provisions, meaning that all isomers of THC are schedule I or schedule II substances.
However, the 2018 Farm Bill unintentionally created a legal loophole, legalizing hemp-derived cannabinoids, including the analogs of THC. That’s because the bill specifies all hemp-derived products are legal as long as they contain less than 0.3% delta-9 THC.
THC-O, THCP, HHC, and delta-8 THC are legal at the federal level, but certain states have taken action against them, banning such products or imposing 0.3% limits on all THC variants.
Check your local laws to ensure hemp-derived THC-O and THCP are legal in your state.
What About Marijuana-Derived THC-O and THCP?
Marijuana-derived THC-O and THCP are illegal at the federal level. The Controlled Substances Act prohibits all cannabis products whose delta-9 THC levels exceed 0.3% by dry weight. It’s also illegal to import and transport high-THC products under federal law.
States can regulate marijuana laws within their jurisdictions, which resulted in 18 states allowing marijuana for recreational use and 38 states permitting high-THC medical cannabis for patients.
In these states, you may find marijuana-derived THC-O and THCP.
THC-O vs. THCP: Which One is Better for Sleep?
By the binding affinity of both cannabinoids to CB1 receptors in the brain and central nervous system, THC-O is better for sleep than THCP.
THC-O also boosts GABA production; GABA is a special inhibitory neurotransmitter that prevents nerve cells from becoming hyperactive — and slowing the brain down.
Using THC-O with CBD can offset the intensity of psychoactive effects and enhance the overall effect on sleep. CBD helps reduce pain and anxiety, alleviates REM sleep disorders, and prevents daytime sleepiness by targeting CB2 and 5-HT1A serotonin receptors.
THC-O vs. THCP: Which One is Better for Anxiety?
THC is biphasic, meaning that low doses can relax your body and mind, while high doses can elevate anxiety and trigger paranoia.
THC-O and THCP are the analogs of THC. Both are significantly stronger than the original variant, so you must dose them carefully.
However, they are fantastic relaxants at the right dosage that help take the edge off without overwhelming you.
It’s not a good idea to mix THC-O with THCP for stress and anxiety because their combined effects may backfire on you and trigger the aforementioned mental discomfort.
Some users consume THC-O and THC-P alongside a broad-spectrum CBD product. Doing so promotes the entourage effect in cannabis, increasing the therapeutic potential of THC and mitigating potential side effects by balancing cannabinoids, including CBD, CBG, and CBC.
Should You Use THC-O or THCP for Pain?
While there’s not enough research on the analgesic properties of THC-O and THCP, it’s within reason to assume they act similarly to delta-9 THC.
You may need less THC-O and THCP to achieve the same pain relief as delta-9 because both compounds are significantly stronger.
This applies to both the anti-inflammatory and anti-nociceptive effects of THC.
Are THC-O and THCP Safe?
Manufacturers have tied hands in extracting usable amounts of THC-O and THCP from cannabis because there isn’t enough natural THCP in the plant, and THC-O doesn’t exist organically.
Both compounds are synthesized from other cannabinoids, using harsh chemicals to bypass this issue. Some of these chemicals can be extremely dangerous to your health.
Producing THC-O requires acetate anhydride, a highly toxic and flammable chemical compound used in fibers, plastics, dyes, and pharmaceutical products. Once THC-O is extracted, the manufacturer purifies the end product to get rid of any traces of acetate anhydride due to its potential damage to our bodies.
You never know whether your THCP and THC-O products are free from the above contaminants. Until the cannabis industry becomes regulated, some products out there should be approached with caution.
Always ask for the product’s certificate of analysis (CoA) and check the company’s reputation before trusting them with your money.
THC-O and THCP vs. Other Cannabinoids
Wondering how THC-O and THCP compare to other popular hemp-derived cannabinoids? Here’s a quick summary:
THC-O and THCP vs. CBD
- The only similarity between THCP and CBD is that both compounds naturally exist in cannabis. However, CBD is found in much larger concentrations.
- THC-O shares virtually no similarities with CBD.
- THCP and THC-O induce a euphoric high, while CBD cannot produce intoxicating effects.
- CBD is suitable for all cannabis users, from beginners to seasoned consumers.
- Unlike THCP and THC-O, CBD doesn’t activate CB1 receptors. Instead, it interacts with the CB2 receptors, 5-HT1A (serotonin), TRPV1 (vanilloid), and PPARS (peroxisome proliferator-activated receptors) (6).
- CBD’s interaction with serotonin receptors is essential for its physical and mental health effects. Research shows that 5-HT1A activation helps alleviate sleep problems, pain, nausea, depression, anxiety, stress, and addiction (7).
THC-O and THCP vs. CBN
- THC-O, THCP, and CBN are intoxicating, but they all offer different types of high. THC-O creates more spiritual experience, with chances of hallucinogenic effects in large doses. However, CBN is only slightly psychoactive.
- CBN is a weak agonist of CB1 receptors. It’s better at binding to the CB2 receptors in the immune system. CBN also activates TRPA1 channels responsible for pain regulation (8).
- THCP and THC-O may also reduce pain, but scientists are still trying to understand the exact mechanism behind these actions.
Where to Buy THC-O and THCP Products
Now that hemp-derived psychoactive cannabinoids are federally legal, you might be tempted to visit a nearby head shop or vape store and see if they stock THC-O and THCP products.
As we understand the desire, looking for high-quality THC-O and THCP online is better.
Most products sold locally don’t have certificates of analysis, so you rely on the store owner’s perception of high-quality products. Online retailers provide these documents on their websites or send them to customers on request. This way, you can check the chemical composition of your product before you try it.
Since local vendors can’t bypass the middleman, their prices reflect that inconvenience. On the other hand, online stores can offer lower price tags on their products, not to mention that you can take advantage of coupon codes, reward programs, subscription purchases, or bulk pricing.
Lastly, you don’t have to leave home to buy THC-O and THCP when shopping online. You can compare different formulas, flavors, potencies, and prices at any time of the day and night. Cannabis brands are known for prompt deliveries, so your products should arrive within 3-5 business days.
Final Verdict: Should You Try THC-O and THCP?
THC-O and THCP are still new products, and there’s much to learn about their benefits and potential side effects.
As a rule of thumb, we recommend purchasing your THC-O and THCP extracts from reputable vendors specializing in hemp extractions. Doing so will help you avoid the risk of consuming contaminated products that can be harmful to your health.
Before you try THC-O and THCP, ensure you’ve got some experience as a cannabis user. Start from delta-8 THC, then move to delta-9 and test your tolerance, especially before taking THCP.
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