Drugs experts liken mephedrone to amphetamines
The mother of a 17-year-old boy who killed himself has said she believes the 'legal high' mephedrone was responsible for his suicide.
Shirley Campbell, from Newtownabbey in Northern Ireland, found her son, Lee, dead last week at their home.
He had been taking mephedrone, among other drugs, and she appealed for young people to stay away from the drug.
Northern Ireland's Health Committee is to discuss the how to deal with abuse of the drug later on Thursday.
Mrs Campbell said that he had been taking the drug for a few months and had lost weight and become aggressive.
"He was never aggressive towards me, but he would have lashed out at his sister over the slightest wee thing," she said.
"He just went into a wee world of his own."
Mrs Campbell also pleaded with retailers to stop selling mephedrone.
"If they saw what I walked into ... a 17-year-old child hanging from his own attic in his own home they need to be ashamed of themselves," she said.
Her plea came as another woman told how she believed her son had died after taking mephedrone.
Frances Finn's son Michael Malone, 23, and due to become a father to triplets, was found dead in a friend's house in February.
"It was his birthday recently. He would have been 24. Instead of having a party I'd to go up to the cemetery," she told UTV.
It has not been definitively established what was responsible for his death.
Recreational drug with effects similar to amphetamines and ecstasy
Sold as a white powder, also found in capsules and pills or can be dissolved in a liquid
Often sold online as plant food marked "not for human consumption"
Completely different drug to methadone, which is a pharmaceutical drug typically used as a very strong painkiller or to treat heroin addicts
Reported side-effects include headaches, palpitations, nausea, cold or blue fingers
Long-term effects of taking drug unknown
Currently legal to buy and be in possession of the powder, but against the law to sell, supply or advertise the powder for human consumption under the Medicines Act
Already illegal in Israel, Denmark, Norway and Sweden
Health Minister Michael McGimpsey has called for urgent action to be taken to ban the drug and said that this can only be addressed at a UK level .
Health Committee chairman Jim Wells said the Department of Health must act before any more harm was caused.
Several committee members have told the BBC that the issue has become so serious that it was added to the agenda as a matter of priority.
The UK government's chief drugs adviser has indicated that mephedrone could soon be classified as a Class B drug.
The devolved administration in Northern Ireland has no powers over the classification of drugs, a situation which will remain unchanged when justice powers are devolved.
Mephedrone has been linked to the deaths of a number of young people though it has not been definitively established as the cause of death.
The drug is known by various names, including "M-Cat", "MC", "mieow", "meow", "4MMC" or "plant fertiliser".
Its effects are similar to that of amphetamine (speed), a class B drug.
It is usually a white or yellowish powder, which is snorted, but it can also be obtained in pills and capsules.
Concern over its effects has grown after two friends, Louis Wainwright, 18, and Nicholas Smith, 19, died in Scunthorpe, Lincolnshire, last week after taking mephedrone.
They had also drinking and taking the heroin substitute methodone.
Since then, a number of other deaths have been investigated to see if they are connected to the drug, including that of 24-year-old Lois Waters, who died in Norton, in North Yorkshire, on Monday.
The police are awaiting the results of toxicology tests to see if mephedrone played a role in her death.
On Tuesday, the government's chief drugs adviser strongly indicated the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) will recommend that the substance be banned.
Community representatives in Northern Ireland have described mephedrone as "a plague on their streets" which is affecting children and adults.
It is expected that the health committee will call on the Department of Health to classify the substance as either class A or B and to introduce legislation to regulate its sale in local shops.
Sinn Fein MLA Martina Anderson said her party had submitted a motion on the issue to be debated in the Assembly "as a matter of urgency".
"I am proposing a stringent substance-control model as a consequence of which head shops as we know them, could no longer exist," she said.
"My proposal involves the establishment of an independent authority who would be tasked with regulating the import, production and sale of all psychoactive substances other than those that are currently covered by existing legislation."