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Health minister Edwin Poots seeks blanket ban on legal highs

A more robust approach is needed to tackle legal high drugs use across the UK, the Health Minister has said.

Edwin Poots has written to Home Secretary Theresa May to raise concerns following a number of deaths.

He is seeking a ban similar to that introduced by the Irish Government on retailers who sell the potentially deadly products.

"I am concerned that the availability of these substances, and particularly in head shops on our high streets, may help normalise drug misuse within our society," he said.

"Indeed, these substances may be a gateway to the further misuse of drugs."

At least one man has died in Northern Ireland after taking the now-outlawed mephedrone and a number of other deaths were anecdotally linked.

It is estimated that across the EU one new substance a week is being detected.

In 2012 drugs killed 110 people in Northern Ireland. A senior police officer has said drugs cause a greater death toll than road accidents.

It is unclear how many of those deaths, if any, involved legal highs.

The Home Office has announced a review of how the UK's laws can be enhanced beyond the existing measures of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971.

It will be informed by evidence from the Republic, which banned head shops in 2010, the US and New Zealand.

It is anticipated the review will be completed by this spring.

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