Hexahydrocannabinol (HHC) is a semi-synthetic cannabinoid, produced naturally in cannabis as well as in a lab setting due to the minimum traces cannabis plants produce. So like THC, does HHC get you high, or is it more like CBD, which has no intoxicating effects on the body? To answer that, we need to explore HHC’s chemical structure.
The Psychoactive Nature of HHC
Before becoming a recreational product, HHC was solely synthesized for research purposes. In a process known as hydrogenation, chemical compounds such as citronellal and olivetol as well as other related compounds are used to transform cannabinoids like CBD into HHC. HHC does occur naturally, with research finding the cannabinoid mostly occurs due to the degradation of delta-9 THC — similar to delta-8 THC and CBN.
THC and HHC differ in the saturation level of their ring structure. THC has a double bond in its cyclic ring, making it unsaturated, while HHC’s ring is fully saturated as the double bond is removed during the hydrogenation process. This slight change in structure might not seem like a lot, but it’s so significant that many believe HHC only triggers a mild high, with some saying it’s completely non-psychoactive.
Comparing HHC High to THC
Despite first being synthesized all the way back in 1940, relatively little is known about the effects and risks of using HHC. However, a small number of laboratory studies show that HHC appears to have broadly similar effects to delta-9 THC.
Like delta-9 THC, HHC can have an affinity for the CB1 receptors, which suggests it can cause a high, albeit it appears that while it can activate CB1 receptors, it’s much milder. So why does it sometimes trigger CB1 receptors, whereas other times, it leaves them alone? Well, that answer helps explain much of the confusion over HHC.
It’s critical to point out that there are two versions of the HHC cannabinoid, with the 9(R)-HHC version being more potent than the 9(S)-HHC version. 9(S)-HHC version is largely, if not completely, inactive, and the ratio of (S)-HHC version to (R)-HHC will influence how high one can feel when consuming cannabis products heavily concentrated in HHC cannabinoids.
So how potent is (R)-HHC compared to THC? Well, that’s tricky, but currently, the belief is (R)-HHC (the strongest form of HHC currently available) is significantly stronger than delta-8 THC but not as potent as delta-9 THC. However, while not as strong as delta-9, the high can be considerably longer. Where THC may leave you feeling high for a few hours, you may feel high for up to 12 hours with HHC.
Factors Influencing the HHC High
Let’s take a look at several factors that will influence HHC’s ability to cause a high.
- Dosage – The more HHC you consume, the greater the chance you’ll feel high. But remember, the ratio between (S)-HHC version to (R)-HHC will play just as much a part.
- Individual Variability – Metabolism, genetics, and overall health will influence how HHC makes you feel. This can also affect which consumption method is best for you. For example, I find edibles don’t do much for me, likely because my genetics allows some of my CYP enzymes to metabolize THC and other cannabinoids so quickly they don’t have enough time to fully enter my bloodstream.
- Individual Tolerance – Like with pretty much every medication or supplement, the more you consume it and the higher the dosages, the more you may need to take to achieve the same results.
- Consumption Method – As we saw with individual variability, how you consume HHC will influence the effects you feel, with some preferring inhalation (smoking or vaporizing) over oral consumption (edibles or tinctures) and vice versa. As seen with other cannabinoids, while vaping produces near-instantaneous effects, the duration will be much shorter.
Personal Experiences with HHC
While research on HHC is limited, this hasn’t stopped manufacturers from selling HHC products, often sold as a legal alternative to delta-9 THC. So what are people’s experiences with HHC?
In general, most report feeling high after consuming HHC, with most saying it reminds them of the high delta-9 products, but to a slightly lesser extent. But this doesn’t mean they don’t like HHC. As many report that HHC produces a smoother high that is great for help with pain and other medical conditions.
While some report that HHC is energetic and uplifting, others report it helps relax their muscles and mind. Nearly everyone says HHC produces a stronger high than delta-8, but it’s nearly impossible to find anyone saying it’s stronger than delta-9. However, it appears a majority find HHC to be much closer in effects to delta-9 vs. delta-8.
Conclusion: Will HHC Make You High?
- Due to the removal of a carbon double bond, while HHC cannabinoids share many of the same effects as delta-9 THC, the high is generally not as pronounced.
- There are two versions of the HHC cannabinoid and the ratio between the ratio between (S)-HHC (inactive) to (R)-HHC (active) will greatly influence the potency.
At the end of the day, I feel the same way about HHC products as I do with other semi-synthetic cannabinoid products like delta-8. I have no problems with semi-synthetic cannabinoids and completely believe they can be created cleanly. However, research is often limited on these cannabinoids that occur in just traces naturally. Then, there is the additional concern over how these cannabinoids are manufactured. Please proceed with caution when using these items.