An Internet Study of User's Experiences of the Synthetic Cathinone 4-Methylethcathinone (4-MEC)

J Psychoactive Drugs. 2014 Oct-Dec;46(4):273-86. doi: 10.1080/02791072.2014.934979.


Abstract A synthetic cathinone called 4-methylethcathinone (4-MEC) emerged online in 2010, and was cyber-marketed to be a replacement for mephedrone. The study aimed to present user experiences of 4-MEC as reported on the Internet, with a focus on user profiles, sourcing and product characteristics, routes of administration, dosage, positive and undesirable effects, and comparisons to mephedrone. Twenty-three individual, anonymous trip reports of the sole use of 4-MEC, and 112 screenshots of general 4-MEC user discussion boards, were taken from a purposeful sample of public drug-related sites. A content textual analysis was conducted on extracted qualitative information and produced 41 categories compiled into five general themes: "Type of 4-MEC user"; "Sourcing, informed decision making, product characteristics, and quality assurance"; "Routes of administration, gauging of dosage, and consumption of other drugs"; "Time course effects and outcomes"; and "Comparisons with mephedrone." 4-MEC is sold as white beads, crystalline shards, or green balls. User motives centered on curiosity, pricing, and ease of web sourcing. Oral, nasal, injecting, eyeball, and rectal routes of administration were described. Testing for purity, "allergy testing," and gauging of dosage were common. Users described euphoric but short-lived effects, with little comedown. Continued research is vital to inform harm reduction.

Keywords: 4-MEC; 4-methylethcathinone; Internet discussion forum; cathinone; mephedrone; novel psychoactive substance.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Affect / drug effects*
  • Alkaloids / administration & dosage*
  • Alkaloids / adverse effects
  • Alkaloids / chemical synthesis
  • Alkaloids / economics
  • Amphetamine-Related Disorders / economics
  • Amphetamine-Related Disorders / psychology*
  • Central Nervous System Stimulants / administration & dosage*
  • Central Nervous System Stimulants / adverse effects
  • Central Nervous System Stimulants / chemical synthesis
  • Central Nervous System Stimulants / economics
  • Designer Drugs / administration & dosage*
  • Designer Drugs / adverse effects
  • Designer Drugs / chemical synthesis
  • Designer Drugs / economics
  • Drug Administration Routes
  • Drug Costs
  • Humans
  • Internet*
  • Methamphetamine / administration & dosage
  • Methamphetamine / adverse effects
  • Methamphetamine / analogs & derivatives*
  • Methamphetamine / economics
  • Risk Factors


  • Alkaloids
  • Central Nervous System Stimulants
  • Designer Drugs
  • Methamphetamine
  • mephedrone
  • 4-methylcathinone