Warning over dangerous 'fake ecstasy from China' flooding UK clubs

‘Fake ecstasy’ from China is flooding UK clubs: Dealers are selling synthetic substitute likened to METH that users say causes memory loss and terrifying hallucinations of ‘shadow creatures’

  • Manchester charity testing MDMA have found the synthetic stimulant 4-CMC 
  • Drug is part of ‘cathinone’ family, which are said to mimic sensations of MDMA
  • However, users have also warned of ‘meth-like’ sensations and hallucinations 
  • Substance was discovered in 2011 and report says most is shipped from China
  • It is said to be flooding UK due to a shortage of real MDMA from the Netherlands
  • Have you tried 4-CMC or taken MDMA which you believe contained it?: Contact us anonymously with your experience: [email protected] 

‘Dangerous fake ecstasy’ – likely to have been shipped from China – is flooding into UK clubs and music events, sparking warnings from drug advice charities.

The knock-off ‘MDMA’ – which users have likened to the potent drug meth – is being sold in place of, or within, real ecstasy pills and powders.

Some users say the substance – known as 4-CMC – causes memory loss and terrifying hallucinations of ‘shadow creatures’.

It is feared the drug might be related to two deaths in Bristol and London, while drug-testing and advice and information service The Loop have warned about an ‘uptick’ in MDMA mis-sales in the last six to eight weeks. 

Border issues arising in the wake of Brexit, Covid lockdowns, and a huge drugs bust in Holland – where much of the UK’s ecstasy supply comes from – has slowed supply of genuine MDMA into the UK, experts say.

And this has led dodgy dealers to sell off the synthetic stimulant to keep up with demand as more people return to clubs and raves, experts warn.

Manchester Drug and Research Exchange (MANDRAKE) recently discovered the presence of 4-CMC in pills tested in the city. 

Dr Oliver Sutcliffe, director of the research group, said: ‘These compounds are potentially more harmful, but the fact is they’re not fully understood therefore people don’t really understand what doses of things to take or what happens if they are taken in combination.

‘Dangerous fake ecstasy’ – likely to have been shipped from China – is flooding into UK clubs, sparking warnings from drug advice charities


The knock-off ‘MDMA’ – which users have likened to the potent drug Meth – is being sold in place of or within real ecstasy pills and powders. Some users say the Class A substance – known as 4-CMC – causes memory loss and terrifying hallucinations of ‘shadow creatures’

Dr Oliver Sutcliffe (pictured), director of the research group Manchester Drug and Research Exchange (MANDRAKE) said: ‘These compounds are potentially more harmful, but the fact is they’re not fully understood therefore people don’t really understand what doses of things to take or what happens if they are taken in combination.’

What is 4-CMC? And why is it considered dangerous? 

4-Chloromethcathinone – known as 4-CMC – is a stimulant drug in a group known as the ‘cathinone’ class.

Other cathinone drugs include the medically used obesity treatment drug Amfepramone – which acts as an appetite suppressant – while the banned party drug mephedrone – also known as MCAT – is also a cathinone.

Sold in its illegal form, cathinones usually comes in highly pure white or brown powders. 

They are usually produced as a synthetic chemical. 

However, cathinones also appear naturally in the Khat or qat plant – which is native to Africa.

Among communities from the areas where the plant is native, khat chewing has a history as a social custom dating back thousands of years. 

However the emergence of the man-made cathinones for recreational use is relatively new.

The detection of 4-CMC was first reported in 2011.

A 2019 report from WHO suggested most synthetic cathinones seized in 2015 were shipped from China.

Seizures of the drug were also reported in the Czech Republic in 2015 and in Indonesia in 2017.

Derivatives of man-made cathinones are claimed to have effects similar to cocaine, amphetamines and MDMA. 

However synthetic cathinones, the umbrella term for drugs like 4-CMC, have also been linked to psychosis.

In some cases the psychoses has proved fatal, due to accidental injuries resulting from the delirium, scientists say.

Yet there is still little known about the substances – which in part is what makes them so dangerous. 

According to experts in the UK, 4-CMC has been found in pills and powder sold as ecstasy.

It is feared the drug might be related to two deaths in Bristol and London, although toxicology reports have not been completed yet. 

Drug support groups in Manchester also say they have detected 4-CMC while testing ecstasy pills and powder. 

Drug-testing and advice and information service The Loop said there had been an ‘uptick’ in MDMA mis-sales in the last six to eight weeks. 

Dr Oliver Sutcliffe, director of the research group Manchester Drug and Research Exchange (MANDRAKE) said: ‘These compounds are potentially more harmful, but the fact is they’re not fully understood therefore people don’t really understand what doses of things to take or what happens if they are taken in combination.’ 

‘What’s more dangerous is when they’re being mis-sold as another product.

‘The stuff we found on the recreational market was worrying because it was actually mixed in a tablet with MDMA, and the user would assume that it was MDMA but you don’t know how these compounds will react in the body.

‘We have been analysing samples over the last 16 months, but we didn’t see anything like this before Freedom Day.’

The drug, also known as 4-Chloromethcathinone, replicates a similar high to ecstasy. It also has similar side-effects such as decreased appetite, weight loss, and sweating. 

But it can also cause scary side-effects like disturbed sleep patterns, visual and auditory hallucinations, itchiness, aggressiveness and moodiness.

One 4CMC user said: ‘I used to think someone is talking in the woods and walking the path.

‘It got to the point where in the middle of the night I opened the front door and jumped back because I thought a “shadow guy” wanted to come inside.’

Another user posted to the forum complaining of memory loss.

A third said: ‘My brain is getting slower and my memory is not there any more, I can forget a conversation I just had five minutes ago.’

One said they ‘literally can’t even tell the difference’ between 4CMC and methamphetamine, a horrifically addictive drug that has ravaged parts of the US.

And synthetic cathinones, the umbrella term for drugs like 4-CMC, have also been linked to psychosis.

In some cases the psychoses has proved fatal, due to accidental injuries resulting from the delirium, scientists say.

A report in the Side Effects of Drugs Annual 42 by Hannah R. Fudin and Sidhartha D Ray in 2018 said: ‘Drug-induced psychosis has been reported for many cathinones, sometimes with death subsequently resulting from consequent accidental injuries, but sometimes resulting from the end course of excited delirium i.e., cardiorespiratory collapse.’

And the World Health Organsiation (WHO) also released a report on the drug in 2019 stating: ‘Potent synthetic analogs of methcathinone continue to emerge on the illicit market and one of the more recent compounds appearing is 4-chloromethcathinone or 4-CMC.

‘The adverse effects resemble patterns observed for other cathinones such as toxicity of the sympathomimetic system such as hypertension, pains in the chest, tachycardia.

‘CNS effects include fear, aggression, agitation, psychoses, hallucinations, and sleeplessness.’

A 2019 report from WHO suggested most synthetic cathinones seized in 2015 were shipped from China.

Seizures of the drug were also reported in the Czech Republic in 2015 and in Indonesia in 2017.

Because so little is known about the new synthetic substance that some dealers thought to be warning punters off the powder and pills containing it.

Footage obtained by Vice News shows one Bristol-based drug lord destroying a kilogram of the stuff – that he had been mis-sold as MDMA crystals with a street value of £3.5K – with bleach.

The substance was most recently spotted in Manchester, being mis-sold as MDMA. 

Figures from another drug-testing charity, WEDINOS, show at least 11 samples were found to contain 4-CMC that had been sent in since August, although figures from their website show the drug has been in circulation to some extent since 2015.

Adam Waugh said there are ‘lots of different factors’ contributing to the spike in 4-CMC on British streets.

He explained: ‘A lot of the MDMA we get in Britain comes from Holland, and Dutch police recently busted an encrypted communication system as well as arresting a number of organised crime gangs.

‘Then there is also a combination of Brexit and Covid causing supply line issues, and now, as we come out of lockdown the demand for MDMA has massively increased

‘And because it’s an illegal market it’s unregulated and you might get drug dealers thinking they will just buy a chemical from China and try to pass it off as MDMA because they need to sell something.’

Fiona Spargo-Mabs, whose son Daniel tragically died after taking a super-strength MDMA pill at an illegal rave in London in 2014, said she found the flooding of streets with the new chemical toxin ‘concerning’.


Fiona Spargo-Mabs (pictured right), whose son Daniel (pictured left) tragically died after taking a super-strength MDMA pill at an illegal rave in London in 2014, said she found the flooding of streets with the new chemical toxin ‘concerning’. Fiona, 54, who runs drug education charity The Daniel Spargo-Mabbs Foundation, said: ‘The range of contaminants now is just enormous, and that’s part of the reason we started the drug re-education charity because it is getting so hard to identify which chemicals are actually in things.’

Fiona, 54, who runs drug education charity The Daniel Spargo-Mabbs Foundation, said: ‘The range of contaminants now is just enormous, and that’s part of the reason we started the drug re-education charity because it is getting so hard to identify which chemicals are actually in things.

‘What is really important to know with illegal drugs is that you’ve got that unknown quantity and it’s so important that young people are really aware of that.

‘There isn’t a way that you can take drugs safety, but having some information, starting low and going slow and getting things tested obviously helps.’

She added: ‘I am really concerned about young people this summer, and the kids that go off to university in the autumn – everything we do at The DSM Foundation is driven by wanting to stop any more harm happening to anyone else, and anyone else’s child.

‘It’s just so avoidable, and so unnecessary.’

It comes as figures from the Office for National Statistics released earlier this month showed drug deaths relating to MDMA were the highest on record, with 92 deaths in 2020 alone.

The ONS figures also showed an 84 per cent jump in MDMA deaths since 2014. 

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