Delta-8-THC use reported by 11% of 12th graders in 2023

March 13, 2024
Use of the psychoactive cannabis product is higher in states without existing delta-8 regulations or cannabis legalization, NIH-funded study finds.

Approximately 11% of 12th-grade students across the United States reported past-year use of delta-8-tetrahydrocannabinol (delta-8-THC, or delta-8 for short), according to an analysis of data from the 2023 Monitoring the Future survey, which is funded by the National Institutes of Health.

The researchers measured delta-8 use for the first time in 2023 to investigate the drug’s popularity among teens as more hemp-derived THC products enter the market and become more accessible. Studies show an association between cannabis use and negative health impacts for teens.

Among those who reported delta-8 use, close to 91% also reported marijuana use, contributing to the approximately 30% of 12th graders overall who reported past-year marijuana use. The survey also showed delta-8 use was more common in the South and Midwest regions and in states without cannabis legalization or delta-8 regulations. In contrast, levels of marijuana use did not differ by state-level cannabis policies. The findings were published as a brief report in JAMA. The Monitoring the Future survey is conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), part of NIH.

This analysis of Monitoring the Future survey results also found that approximately 14% of 12th graders in the South and 15% in the Midwest reported delta-8 use, compared to 10% in the Northeast and 5% in the West. Around 14% of those in states without cannabis legalization reported delta-8 use, compared to 8% in states with legalization. In states without existing delta-8 regulations, 14% reported use compared to 6% in states with delta-8 legislation.

Because the survey is taken in school settings, students who were absent, not enrolled, or with less engagement in school – a known risk factor for drug use – may have been less likely to participate in the survey, the investigators note.

The Monitoring the Future survey is given annually to students in classrooms in eighth, 10th, and 12th grades who self-report their substance use behaviors over various time periods, such as past 30 days, past 12 months, and lifetime. In 2023, the survey included questions on delta-8 for the first time, and they were administered to a randomly selected one-third of 12th grade students, resulting in 2,186 12th graders in 27 states. Given the prevalence of use found in the 2023 survey, questions on delta-8 have been added to future surveys for all age groups.

NIH release