The government is considering outlawing a range of legal drugs that apparently mimic the effects of substances such as ecstasy and cannabis.
The move follows concerns in the US about a drug called Salvia divinorum, a hallucinogen that has been blamed as a contributory factor in teenage suicides.
The psychoactive herb - sold legally in the UK over the internet and in "head shops", retailers specialising in the sale of drug paraphernalia - is said to provoke uncontrollable laughter and evoke childhood memories. But some users report that it made them feel uncomfortable and would not recommend it to other drug takers.
Phil Woolas, the Home Office minister, confirmed to parliament last week that the government had asked the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD), the independent expert body that advises ministers on drug-related issues, to look into the "legal highs" market and that he expected it to pay close attention to the side-effects of salvia.
Based on what the council concludes, the government could seek to classify salvia and other legal highs, including Spice - a synthetic cannabis banned in Austria and Germany - and "herbal ecstasy", which is increasingly popular in clubs, as illegal substances.
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