Does HHC Get You High?

Table of Content

HHC or hexahydrocannabinol is a relative of the THC molecule (delta-9) in the cannabis plant. Both compounds produce psychoactive effects through their interactions with the endocannabinoid system.

In this article, we'll discuss precisely what HHC is, how people are consuming HHC, and compare the high to delta-8 and delta-9 THC.

Key Takeaways:

  • HHC is a hydrogenated form of THC. A chemical process replaces the carbon double bonds with hydrogen molecules for a more shelf-stable compound with very similar effects.

  • HHC is most commonly found in vape products or edibles like gummies.

  • The potency of effects of HHC is between delta-8 and delta-9 THC. It's more potent than delta-8 but about 80% as strong as delta-9.

  • HHC can be considered a semi-synthetic cannabinoid as it does require a chemical process to transform THC into HHC to be used in products like vapes or gummies

  • While anecdotal reports find HHC products to be fairly safe and similar to THC, it's important that you shop carefully for HHC products as contaminants can find their way into your product from poor manufacturing processes.

What Is HHC?

HHC is a cannabinoid first synthesized by American chemist Dr. Roger Adams in 1944 when he hydrogenated the delta-9 THC molecule.

The hydrogenation process involves adding hydrogen atoms to another compound. You may be familiar with margarine, which is essentially hydrogenated vegetable oil.

Hydrogenation modifies the original molecular structure, making it more shelf-stable.

In the case of the conversion of delta-9 THC to HHC, it changes the molecular shape, removing its carbon double bonds and replacing it with hydrogen. While chemical structure doesn't look very different, it does play enough of a difference in its interaction with the body's cannabinoid receptors for slightly different effects.

Some cannabis researchers are adamant that HHC is found naturally in high-potency cannabis plants (in trace amounts) [1].

Other experts argue that it's a semi-synthetic cannabinoid as it requires taking a naturally-occurring THC molecule and altering its chemical structure using a nickel or zinc catalyst and chemical saturation.

What Does The High From HHC Feel Like?

With cannabinoids like hemp-derived delta-8 THC becoming increasingly popular as a legal alternative to marijuana, HHC's availability is quickly following suit.

HHC derived from hemp plants has very similar effects as delta-9 THC from marijuana.

HHC's effects include:

  • Elevated mood

  • Feelings of euphoria

  • Altered visual and auditory perception

  • Changes in heart rate and body temperature

  • Slowed reaction times

  • Slowed perception of time

There's not a lot of research on the entire effect profile of HHC or its safety for potential therapeutic effects, so most of what we know about the HHC high is based on anecdotal evidence from users online.

Many people report feeling a more relaxed body high with a slight mood elevating and energized feeling when consuming HHC. It also seems to be much more mellow compared to the THC high.

What Do People Use HHC For?

Hemp products can be used for a variety of purposes. The cannabinoids are the main active compounds found in hemp flower that are known to have a wide range of potential health benefits thanks to their interactions with the body's endocannabinoid system, which is a regulating system in charge of stress, hormones, sleep, appetite, memory, and much more.

Unfortunately, there aren't many studies to reference regarding the potential health benefits of HHC, but many people find it useful for managing pain and sleep, alleviating nausea, and supporting stress.

All are very similar to why one might turn to THC or CBD.

The biggest appeal of HHC for many users is that it shares very similar effects to delta-9 THC from marijuana while still being considered federally legal.

On top of this, hydrogenating hemp-derived cannabinoids results in longer shelf life. Many cannabinoids are sensitive to UV light and oxidation, breaking down the potency of many hemp-derived products.

Bu replacing the double carbon bonds with hydrogen atoms, the cannabinoid has a much longer shelf life.

Is HHC Legal?

Like delta-8 THC from hemp, HHC currently lives in a legal grey area.

Technically speaking, HHC harvested from hemp plants that contain less than 0.3% by dried weight is considered legal—only delta-9 THC from marijuana remains on the Schedule I list of Controlled Substances.

Another area where HHC may live in a legal grey area is the definition of what constitutes a natural or synthetic cannabinoid.

Synthetic cannabinoids became a public health risk in the early 2000s when lab-made weed hit under the names "K2" and "Spice" hit the market as a legal loophole to get high and for passing drug tests.

These synthetic cannabinoids are not found in nature, resulting in many hospitalizations and fatalities. These so-called synthetic cannabinoids didn't resemble any real cannabis cannabinoids, which is why the Drug Enforcement Administration banned them altogether.

In the case of HHC and even delta-8 THC—which does require a chemical process to alter their molecular structure to produce a psychoactive cannabinoid, the argument is that these cannabinoids are found in plants—albeit in small quantities. However, it can still hold the title of being "natural."

While the federal government will likely turn its eyes away from HHC and delta-8, as they don't seem to be a large public health concern. some states have banned all forms of THC—including their isomers and hydrogenated form.

So before shopping for HHC or delta-8, make sure you read up on your local laws to avoid any legal issues.

How Is HHC Consumed? HHC Products

Cannabis cannabinoids interact with the endocannabinoid system to exert their effects. CB1 and CB2 receptors are found throughout the body, meaning cannabinoids can be ingested, smoked, and applied topically to experience their effects.

Endocannabinoid System

How the cannabinoids are absorbed into the body will affect the effects experienced.

Smoking Or Vaping HHC Products

When you smoke or vape cannabis, cannabinoids are quickly and easily absorbed into the bloodstream through the lungs.

This method of consumption provides almost immediate effects, although they don't last as long as ingesting them.

While HHC products aren't as widely available as CBD or THC products, you can find some brands that sell HHC vape pens.

These HHC vape pens contain HHC distillate, up to 99.9% pure HHC. They may also contain some naturally-derived hemp terpenes for added flavor and to enhance the effects.

Compared to full spectrum or broad spectrum hemp extracts, HHC distillate should come in a clear, sticky liquid and have a much longer shelf-life than other natural cannabinoids.

Edible HHC (Gummies, Capsules, Mints)

HHC gummies can take longer to kick in compared to smoking it.

This is because the HHC has to be metabolized by the liver before entering the bloodstream. However, once the HHC high kicks in (after 30-45 minutes), it tends to provide a longer-lasting high than smoking or vaping it.

Compared to delta-8 THC gummies, many people find that HHC gummies tend to have a weaker psychoactive effect, which is why the most popular way to consume HHC is by vaping it.

Is HHC Safe?

We'll be upfront here—there haven't been any safety studies conducted on HHC oil to date, yet there are still plenty of new HHC products hitting the market and people using it daily.

As far as we've researched, there haven't been any reports of major concerns on HHC specifically—It appears to have a very similar safety profile to THC.

The biggest concern with HHC products is the use of harsh chemicals in the manufacturing process making their way into the final product, which is why it's important to verify third-party lab tests for heavy metals, chemical solvents, and other contaminants that could remain in poorly produced HHC products.

With that said, there are some adverse effects to be aware of when consuming THC or any other cannabis-derived cannabinoid, especially one with psychoactive effects.

HHC Side Effects:

  • Feelings of anxiousness and paranoia

  • Increased heart rate

  • Insomnia

  • Dizziness and confusion

  • Increased appetite

  • Dry mouth

  • Red eyes

  • Slow reaction times

HHC produces intoxicating effects, impairing your judgment and reaction times. You should not operate machinery or get behind the wheel of your car under the influence of HHC.

Does HHC Show Up On Drug Tests?

One of the big appeals of HHC is that it doesn't show up on a conventional urine test as delta-8 and delta-10 do.

However, this is up for debate.

Some people have reported failing their drug test using HHC. This is likely because the liver metabolizes HHC into 11-hydroxy-THC, one of the main metabolites drug testing detects in THC use.

Since HHC and all other cannabinoids are stored in fat tissues, they can remain in your system for up to 30 days—which is why it's recommended you abstain from all THC use, even this hydrogenated form of THC, before your expected test.

The Takeaway: Does HHC Get You High?

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HHC is a psychoactive compound that produces a high very similar to THC.

HHC is made by infusing the THC molecule with hydrogen atoms, which slightly transforms the molecule. It was first synthesized in 1944 but has made a huge comeback in the cannabis industry as cannabis use becomes de-stigmatized, yet marijuana is still federally illegal.

What does the high from HHC feel like?

HHC users report a more mellow high compared to traditional marijuana use. It has a slight body high without feeling heavy and mood-elevating effects that stimulate the senses.

Compared to delta-8 THC, HHC is slightly more potent but still less potent (up to 80%) than regular delta-9 THC.

Be careful where you shop for HHC products. There is a lack of regulation in the hemp-derived cannabinoids space, and producing HHC requires using hazardous chemicals that can make their way into what you're smoking or eating.

Always look for third-party lab tests to ensure there are no harmful byproducts that remain in your HHC.

 

References:

  1. Ahmed, S. A., Ross, S. A., Slade, D., Radwan, M. M., Khan, I. A., & ElSohly, M. A. (2015). Minor oxygenated cannabinoids from high potency Cannabis sativa L. Phytochemistry, 117, 194-199.

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