14% of Southern 12th-graders say they use delta-8; 30% use marijuana

Delta-8 is a psychoactive substance usually derived from hemp and elicits effects similar to THC

Nationwide, roughly 11% of 12th-grade students reported using delta-8 in 2023. Nearly three times as many said they used marijuana last year, according to the National Institutes of Health’s Monitoring the Future survey.

Delta-8 is a psychoactive substance that is typically derived from hemp and elicits effects similar to THC, the primary component of cannabis responsible for causing a “high” sensation.

Eleven percent is “at least one or two students in every average-sized high school class who may be using delta-8. We don’t know enough about these drugs, but we see that they are already extremely accessible to teens,” director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, Nora Volkow, M.D., said in the news release.

“Cannabis use in general has been associated with negative impacts on the adolescent brain, so we must pay attention to the kinds of cannabis products teens are using, educate young people about potential risks, and ensure that treatment for cannabis use disorder and adequate mental health care is provided to those who need it,” she added.

Among those who reported delta-8 use, about 91% said they used marijuana in 2023; roughly 30% were 12th-graders. Delta-8 use was found to be more common in the South, Midwest, and states without cannabis legalization or delta-8 regulations. Approximately 14% of high school seniors in the South said they used delta-8 last year.

Marijuana use, however, did not fluctuate based on state cannabis policies, which can be a problem.

“Numerous studies have found that adolescent cannabis use is associated with adverse effects on learning, memory, and attention; changes in brain development; and the development of cannabis use disorder and other psychiatric disorders, such as depression, psychosis and suicidality,” the NIH reported.