Connect with us


New study highlights dangers of vaping cannabinoid acetates

Cannabinoid acetates are non-natural compounds found in some synthetic cannabis products.



New study highlights dangers of vaping cannabinoid acetates
Ketene is released when cannabinoid acetates are heated under vaping conditions.

A new study provides insight into the potential risks of vaping cannabinoid acetates – non-natural compounds found in some synthetic cannabis products.

Researchers at Portland State University have found that vaping cannabinoid acetates may lead to the formation of a deadly gas which could cause lung damage in consumers.

Cannabinoid acetates, such as THC-O acetate (or ATHC), are lab-engineered, synthetic compounds – not naturally occurring in cannabis. 

As with synthetic cannabinoids such as ‘spice’ and ‘K2’ – which are highly potent and have been found to have up to 30 times higher risk of adverse effects than natural cannabis – these compounds would not be present in any prescribed cannabis products in the UK or found in medical cannabis dispensaries. 

However, certain cannabinoid acetates, such as Delta 8 THC acetate are available online and over the counter in states where recreational cannabis is legal in the US, despite the fact that it is currently unregulated by the FDA due to a lack of safety data.

This latest study is the first research into cannabinoid acetate emissions, and provides some insight into the associated risks. 

Ketene and vitamin E acetate

The researchers found that the toxic gas known as ketene is released when cannabinoid acetates are heated under vaping conditions. While ketene is known to be toxic to humans, lead researcher Robert Strongin said it’s too dangerous to study in order to fully understand its impact on the human body.

Ketene was found previously by researchers studying vitamin E acetate in 2019 in the emissions from a commercial e-cigarette. This led to its identification as a possible source of the vaping-induced lung injury outbreak that led to nearly 3,000 hospitalisations and deaths in the US.

Vitamin E acetate shares similarities in chemical structure to the new cannabinoid acetate products on the market. 

The acetate group used in products, like Delta 8, make it easier to cross the blood-brain barrier, enhancing potency, Strongin said. The chemical reaction is described as similar to how morphine becomes heroin.

The findings

The study provides results based on one puff, which showed not only that ketene formed at lower temperature settings than previously thought, but at levels that are known to be dangerous to an individual’s health. 

Co-author, Kaelas Munger, who worked on the project with Strongin said intake for people vaping these products is likely higher, because they usually vape more than a single puff.

“The thing we’re most concerned about is prolonged exposure, we don’t know what that is,” said Munger. 

“That’s why papers like ours are needed. Otherwise people would be exposed to this really toxic substance and it’s really impossible to look for the evidence.”

Strongin said ketene is virtually untraceable in the human body, because it is so reactive with biological molecules. 

He commented: “That’s why it is so necessary to continue investigating potential sources of human exposure.”

The researchers hope to work with regulatory agencies to alert consumers and regulators about this finding.

The risk to cannabis consumers

Chris Tasker, a cannabis scientist and CEO of Global Cannabinoid Solutions, reassured medical cannabis consumers in the UK.

“The compounds in the cannabis plant have a long history of being incredibly safe, our body even produces its own cannabinoids naturally,” he commented.

“The dangers arise from our intervention and transformation of natural chemistry in order to work around governmental policies, this is the route of synthetic cannabis abuse at a community level due to the inability to access cannabis.

“Improper preparation and uninformed consumption are the primary risks, not the plant itself.”

Tasker added: “Prescribed cannabis is safer but often the prescriber has little knowledge of what happening at a cellular level once cannabis consumed. The best way for consumers to protect themselves is to become informed.”


Home » Science » New study highlights dangers of vaping cannabinoid acetates

Sarah Sinclair is a respected cannabis journalist writing on subjects related to science, medicine, research, health and wellness. She is managing editor of Cannabis Health, the UK’s leading title covering medical cannabis and CBD, and sister titles, Cannabis Wealth and Psychedelic Health. Sarah has an NCTJ journalism qualification and an MA in Journalism from the University of Sunderland. Sarah has over six years experience working on newspapers, magazines and digital-first titles, the last two of which have been in the cannabis sector. She has also completed training through the Medical Cannabis Clinicians Society securing a certificate in Medical Cannabis Explained. She is a member of PLEA’s (Patient-Led Engagement for Access) advisory board, has hosted several webinars on cannabis and women's health and has moderated at industry events such as Cannabis Europa. Sarah Sinclair is the editor of Cannabis Health. Got a story? Email / Follow us on Twitter: @CannabisHNews / Instagram: @cannabishealthmag


Cannabis Health is a journalist-led news site. Any views expressed by interviewees or commentators do not reflect our own. All content on this site is intended for educational purposes, please seek professional medical advice if you are concerned about any of the issues raised.

Copyright © 2023 PP Intelligence Ltd.