The Government is being urged by its drugs experts to ban a potent legal high called Annihilation.
The Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) said it would recommend Home Secretary Theresa May put the product – marketed as a “herbal incense” – on the list of controlled substances.
It comes after police in Scotland last week warned against Annihilation use, saying it had left at least nine people in hospital over the last three months.
ACMD chair Professor Les Iversen told a meeting that the public body was “ahead of the game” with regards to Annihilation and had determined that it was made from a synthetic form of cannabis.
He said: “Annihilation is a relatively new substance and product and the evidence for its prevalence and harms is still very preliminary. However, there have been reports, particularly from Glasgow, of young people reacting very unfavourably to this product, becoming severely agitated and over-stimulated.”
Annihilation can cause a number of adverse health effects including paranoia, aggression, increased heart rate, unconsciousness, self-harming and numbness in the legs leading users to collapse.
The ACMD has also warned that there is an increasing need to educate the public over “potentially lethal” inhalation of gases such as helium and nitrous oxide. Helium inhalation caused two deaths in 2007 but over the last year has been responsible for 42 fatalities, the meeting in central London heard.
“Laughing gas” nitrous oxide, which is legal and widely available but requires a medical licence to be dispensed, is used as an anaesthetic gas and in the production of whipped cream.
Asked about how the gas was being consumed for recreational purposes, Prof Iversen said: “It is quite easy to open a canister and fill a balloon – for example, at Glastonbury music festival a couple of years ago there were lots of yellow balloons containing nitrous oxide which were being sold and inhaled from the balloons.”
The Government will also be advised to provide aluminium foil to heroin users to encourage them to smoke rather than inject the drug. This would reduce the transmission of viral and bacterial disease and reduce the burden on the NHS related to recreational drug injection, Prof Iversen added.