The sale of legal highs in the UK could be completely outlawed in new laws proposed by Home Secretary Theresa May.
Currently legal highs are banned on a case-by-case basis, unlike in Ireland where a universal ban exists.
But the Home Office is drafting new legislation to place a blanket ban on all such substances, which it hopes to push through ahead of the General Election in May.
Legal highs are sold openly online and on high streets across the UK.
The Government has banned 350 legal highs since 2010, but it has struggled to stop manufacturers in China and India from modifying the molecular structures and creating new forms of the drugs.
The Home Office is planning to ban all attempts to advertise, sell or import the substances, and also outlaw the use of a substance based on its impact on the brain.
“A couple of proposals have come out and we are looking to work on a blanket ban based on the sort Ireland has to make enforcement easier”, said May.
“The problem is we can ban a substance and the people making it then slightly tweak the compound, and because we have banned that compound the next set is not covered by that ban. So we are looking at a different approach based on the impact they have on the brain.”
May added: “We saw this was an issue when we came into government and took early intervention to deal with it through introducing temporary banning orders so that it was possible to act more quickly against these substances, rather than wait for the full expert opinion first.”
In December a mother whose son is thought to have died after taking a legal high welcomed a court ruling empowering local councils to confiscate such substances.
Karen Audino’s 20-year-old son Jimmy Guichard suffered a heart attack and severe brain damage within hours of taking a legal high.
The Centre for Social Justice Director, Christian Guy, said: “‘Legal highs’ are destroying lives – it is time to get tough on those making a living out of selling them.
“The UK is already the addicted man of Europe with some of the worst rates of heroin, crack and alcohol abuse – tackling ‘legal highs’ needs to be a priority”, he added.