NEWTON COUNTY, Ga. — It’s sold at gas stations and vape shops across Georgia. But an Emory doctor warns just one high from Delta-8 can cause permanent damage to your child’s brain.
Channel 2 investigative reporter Sophia Choi talked to a Newton County family who is still coping with their son’s psychosis.
“He used to be a football star. I mean, just so athletic,” said Kyla, the mother of a teenager who used Delta-8.
But at 14 years old, Kyla and Jay started noticing changes in their son.
“He started coming home from school high like every single day,” Kyla said.
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He was getting high on Delta-8 or Delta-11, psychoactive substances made from hemp, a type of cannabis.
It really took a toll.
“Isolating so much from us. And he just started changing, just angry,” Kyla said.
It got so bad, the couple said they had to take extreme measures.
“We had him on lockdown a lot of times. I mean, we took the door off the hinges. We took his cell phone numerous times for months, wouldn’t let him hang out with anybody. He would run away at night,” Kyla said.
They found lots of vapes and gummies that their son had used.
The parents got so desperate, they even moved. But that did not stop their son’s Delta-8 addiction, which eventually led to two hospital stays for psychosis.
“We lived in the ER with him for two nights, three days,” Kyla said.
They even found vapes on gummies on their son in the ER.
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“He would sit there and just look at his hands giggling, you know, just like for days,” Kyla said.
“Psychosis can occur even just with one use of Delta-8,” said Dr. Elizabeth McCord, an Emory University Hospital Addiction Center psychiatrist.
She did not treat the teen but knows plenty of patients like him.
“I have seen kids as young as 12 years old, 13 years old ingesting Delta-8,” McCord said.
Some ended up with psychosis after using Delta-8.
“Psychosis is a disorganization of the mind… hearing voices or seeing things when others aren’t around, delusions,” McCord said.
She said teens are more susceptible because their brains are still developing until age 26.
“About 50% of individuals who get diagnosed with a cannabis-induced psychotic disorder can go on to have a primary psychotic disorder such as schizophrenia,” McCord said.
That’s about a one in two chance for permanent brain damage.
McCord said parents should act now by starting a conversation with their child.
“So, you want to create an environment where they feel like they can talk to you. They can open up to you, and it fosters a recovery for them,” McCord said.
Delta-8 is not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. In Georgia, the buying age requirement is 21.
But Kyla and her husband Jay said that is not stopping a lot of stores from selling to teens who are susceptible to the colorful, candy-like packaging and peer pressure.
“I would say if there’s kids that are vaping, just vaping regular nicotine will end up at some point in time if they haven’t already taken the Delta-8,” Jay said.
They said their son is finally off Delta-8 and is recovering through an outpatient center. But he is still not himself.
“There’s a chance that he’s damaged his brain, you know, for life. But I’m hoping, and praying and believing that it’s not true,” Kyla said.
Because Delta-8 is not regulated by the FDA, doctors warn you really don’t know how much THC is in it and what other chemicals it may contain.
Most people don’t get psychosis from using Delta-8, but doctors said it is a growing problem.
Kyla and Jay’s son is on medication to help his brain heal. He could be on those meds for up to 10 years.
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