BACKGROUND Delta-8 tetrahydrocannabinol (delta-8 THC) is an isomer of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (delta-9 THC), the primary psychoactive cannabinoid in the marijuana plant. Typically found at lower concentrations in marijuana, delta-8 THC exhibits psychoactive properties similar to delta-9 THC. Products containing delta-8 THC are readily available across the US and currently there is a lack of available confirmatory testing specific to delta-8 THC as there is cross-reactivity to other naturally occurring cannabinoids in standard immunoassays. Pediatric exposures to this substance are on the rise.
CASE REPORT We present a case with laboratory confirmation of a previously healthy 2-year-old girl ingesting approximately 15 mg/kg of delta-8 THC gummies. The patient arrived minimally responsive and requiring intubation for encephalopathy. Laboratory confirmation of delta-8 THC exposure is not routinely available with common testing modalities. A urine drug screen preformed in the hospital was positive for delta-9 THC. With the collaboration of the Drug Enforcement Administration's Toxicology Testing Program, detection and confirmation of delta-8 THC was performed in the serum and urine using liquid chromatography-quadrupole time-of-flight mass spectrometry.
CONCLUSIONS The prevalence of delta-8 THC-containing products in the illicit drug market is increasing rapidly. Delta-8 THC products are now available in gas stations and in headshops. The clinical presentation of delta-8 THC exposure is similar to known effects of delta-9 THC exposure. These similarities limit the clinicians' abilities to determine the specific substance ingested. Symptomatic and supportive care remains an effective treatment for cannabinoid toxicity.
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This research was supported by Grant or Cooperative Agreement number 1 NU17CE924971-01-00, funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and contract number 15DDHQ19F0000086, funded by the Drug Enforcement Administration.
Akpunonu, Peter; Baum, Regan A.; Reckers, Andrew; Davidson, Blake; Ellison, Ross; Riley, Matthew; Trecki, Jordan; and Gerona, Roy, "Sedation and Acute Encephalopathy in a Pediatric Patient Following Ingestion of Delta-8-Tetrahydrocannabinol Gummies" (2021). Emergency Medicine Faculty Publications. 10.