'Legal high' drugs should be sold by pharmacists in the same way as alcohol in pubs so that doctors will know what teens have taken when they overdose, the UK government's former chief drugs adviser has said.
Prof David Nutt, who was sacked by ministers in 2009 after claiming that alcohol and tobacco were more dangerous than LSD, warned that users who buy party drugs online are risking their health because they do not know what is in them.
Britain should follow the model adopted in New Zealand and allow "legal highs" to be sold to over-18s over pharmacy counters, so that "if you then decide to overdose, at least you know what you're overdosing on", he said.
Legal highs are drugs which often mimic illegal substances but are designed to be chemically different so that they are not banned by existing laws.
Drugs like Benzo Fury, one of the most popular legal highs in the UK, was linked to the death of 19-year-old Alex Heriot at the RockNess music festival last year.
Speaking at the British Neuroscience Association on Monday, Prof Nutt said the main danger of drugs bought on the internet is that users do not know how strong they are or what they contain.
"People don't know what they are getting," he said. "People might be taking something much more potent and that can cause problems.
"The way forward, I think, is to do what they are doing in New Zealand which is essentially turning the law the other way round and saying 'We are going to sell these legal highs but you've got to show it's safe at the dosage you are selling'.
"Then people will know what they are taking, and then it will be an informed choice. If you then decide to overdose, at least you know what you are overdosing on, but at the moment it is a lottery."
A new study carried out on rats' brain tissue found that Benzo Fury could be as dangerous as ecstasy.
Dr Jolanta Opacka-Juffry, from the University of Roehampton, said: "Potentially this is an addictive and harmful drug. It may be attractive for its hallucinogenic effects, but there is a trap of potential addiction and the users may not realise that."
Nick Collins Telegraph.co.uk