JUST five weeks after a Sun campaign led to a ban on killer party drug meow meow, the market is flooded with potentially lethal replacements - all of them LEGAL.
And as the music festival season kicks off again, one of the mind-altering substances in particular, NRG-1, is causing deep concern.
It is so strong that the dealer we bought some from admitted in a secret recording that he forced himself to be SICK after taking too much, as he was scared of overdosing.
In a north London pub, supplier James handed over two grammes of the white powder for £30 and said: "I did one and a half grammes myself at the weekend. I just stuck it in a five-gramme bag and done it all in one go.
"But I put two fingers down my throat afterwards to make myself sick.
"I just thought, 'You f***ing idiot, people are saying this is well dangerous.'
"I got rid of about half of it and then I was going all day and night."
Online, NRG-1 is sold as a "pond cleaner", and is even cheaper than when bought in person from dealers such as James.
One site says of naphyrone - NRG-1's chemical name - "This pond cleaner is even better than any of our previous products - but it also means you need to use less in your pond to get the desired results!"
From this site we bought two grammes of naphyrone for £20, including postage, and it arrived in two days.
We had also found James online, and when we dialled the mobile number listed, he arranged to meet us within an hour.
In a 30-minute conversation - which we filmed without his knowledge - he told us he had been sentenced to six months in prison for dealing cocaine and ecstasy two and a half years ago.
He now studies business at a London university but sells NRG-1 on the side. He also claimed to be able to get a kilo of banned meow meow.
He said: "I sell more NRG-1 than I did M-Kat (another name for meow meow). It's really popular with students."
Most of the legal drugs gaining popularity after the meow meow ban are readily available in High Street shops for around £15 each, and many are caffeine-based.
Others contain harmful chemicals, requiring a warning to be printed on the packet by law.
Headtonik, a shop in Manchester, sold us a substance called Karma, labelled "Bath caps" and "Not for human consumption".
Staff claimed the single £10 blue capsule, containing brown powder, has the same effects as meow meow.
Another shop sold us two white pills called Doves Ultra, with a label warning: "Plant feeder, not for human consumption". Other meow meow alternatives include Bliss, at around £1.50 per pill. Its effects include an energy rush with potential palpitations, insomnia and anxiety.
But NRG-1 is the "legal high" which most worries experts. The effects are similar to rave drug ecstasy, giving the user a sense of intense euphoria and energy for 12 hours or more.
But the side-effects can include sweating, sickness, fainting - and even death.
Dr Ken Checinski, medical director of drugs charity Addaction, says: "This is a drug designed to be very similar to illegal drugs but to slip past legislation by being very slightly different.
"The dangers which can go with these drugs are potential heart attacks, breathing problems and high blood pressure.
"When the user experiences a comedown, coming off the drug, they could feel depressed, even suicidal."
Art student Caroline-Jane Ryder, 24, from Merseyside, takes around three grammes of NRG-1 every week. She says: "It doesn't matter what they ban, there will be something else to take its place.
"I used to take trips and pills, but because NRG is legal I feel better in myself because it doesn't feel like I'm doing anything wrong.
"I'd say one third of the people I know take it. Until booze and entry to clubs become cheaper, legal highs are going to be massive."
Home Office Minister James Brokenshire said last night: "Action to address the issue of emerging legal highs coming on to the market is a priority for the Government."
By NICK FRANCIS
May 23, 2010