Almost 5,000 inquiries have been made by health workers last year about the damaging effects of the drug mephedrone on patients, figures showed.
Some 4,500 online and 292 telephone inquiries were received by the Health Protection Agency's National Poisons Information Service (NPIS) in 2009/2010, up from none in 2008/9.
Mephedrone, which was banned in April and classified as a class B drug, has rarely featured in NPIS inquiries in previous years.
But the latest data shows it was the most common recreational drug asked about on the phone in 2009/10 and the third most common in online inquiries, after MDMA and cocaine.
Professor Simon Thomas, director of the NPIS in Newcastle, said: "The major change in the NPIS workload in 2009/10 came from an increase in inquiries related to mephedrone.
"Telephone enquiries to NPIS about mephedrone have fallen substantially since it was classified a Class B controlled substance in April, from 119 inquiries received in March to 19 received in June 2010."
Other figures, relating to poisoning by household products, showed liquid tablets for the washing machine caused most incidents.
Of 5,939 inquiries by health workers, 647 were about the tablets, followed by 473 about bleach, 408 about multi-purpose cleaners, 397 about de-scalers and 270 regarding disinfectant, antiseptic or sanitiser liquids.
The remainder were split into different products, including dishwasher tablets, toilet cleaners, washing-up liquid, and floor and bathroom cleaners.
Most inquiries (65%) related to children aged five or under and most (32%) came from hospitals, followed by GP surgeries (30%) and NHS Direct or NHS 24 in Scotland (28%).
UKPA - UK Press Association
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