The Government’s chief drugs advisor has indicated that the legal drug behind a spate of recent deaths should be banned.
Professor Les Iversen, chairman of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD), compared mephedrone and other related drugs to amphetamines, a Class B drug.
Prof Iversen, addressing the Home Affairs Select Committee, said: “I am not here to give my personal views … but, as a pharmacologist, these drugs are amphetamines by another name and I know that amphetamines are harmful.”
He added: “I think you can deduce my conclusions from that.”
Amphetamines are a Class B drug along with cannabis.
Including mephedrone, or mieow-mieow as it is commonly known, as a Class B drug would mean those carrying the drug could face up to five years in jail or an unlimited fine or both.
And those caught dealing the drug could face up to 14 years imprisonment.
Press reports indicate that the ACMD will formally recommend banning the so-called ‘legal highs’ next Monday.
And the Professor has indicated that any recommendation for a ban would cover mephedrone and all of its derivatives.
But critics have attacked the Government for its slow approach to the issue.
Keith Vaz, chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee, said: “We will be writing following this session to the Home Secretary about these matters.
“We just think the delay is most unsatisfactory given the dangers that are inherent (in taking mephedrone).”
And Chris Grayling, the Shadow Home Secretary, said: “The Government was warned years ago about the risks posed by legal highs and these steps should have been taken long ago.”
Mephedrone is a white or yellowish powder which can be snorted or taken in the form of pills and capsules.
It is legally sold as plant food, and six people in Britain have died after taking the drug.
Earlier this year it was revealed that five out of six people caught with cannabis escape prosecution despite the fact that it is a Class B drug.
There are now more than 22,000 people a year, almost half under the age of 18, being treated for cannabis addiction. In 1997 the number was 1,600.
In December a new study revealed that a stronger form of cannabis, known as skunk, which is common on British streets, is almost seven times more likely to trigger psychosis than ordinary cannabis.