The Government's drugs advisers could recommend a ban on mephedrone within weeks following the deaths of two teenagers believed to have taken the drug.
The Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) is likely to issue a report into a group of legal highs, including mephedrone, at the end of this month. Ministers could then indicate support for a ban in principle, although a ban could take months. Opposition parties attacked the Government yesterday for not doing enough to tackle the threat of mephedrone, known as M-Cat or Miaow Miaow. The Liberal Democrats cited "inordinate delays" in the ACMD's research after the sacking of its chairman, Professor David Nutt, last year.
The Tories said they would introduce a new system allowing legal highs to be banned for up to a year while they were being analysed. Teachers' leaders called for a ban after the deaths of Louis Wainwright, 18, and Nicholas Smith, 19, in Scunthorpe on Monday. Police have arrested four people over the deaths.
Nicholas's father, Tony, supported the ban, and said he thought his son took it because it was legal.
Mephedrone was virtually unknown until early last year but is one of the most popular drugs in clubs and is widely available online. It is usually a white or yellowish powder which is snorted, but it can also be obtained in the form of pills or capsules.
Children's Secretary Ed Balls said ministers would be likely to follow the advice of the council, which could go as far as to suggest a specific classification. "If there is action which has to be taken, it should be taken," he said.