More than 40 deaths were linked to a group of now-banned legal highs in 2010, eight times as many as the previous year, figures have shown.
The biggest increase related to meow meow, which rose from five deaths in 2009 to 29 the following year, the National Programme on Substance Abuse Deaths report showed.
Methcathinones, which include meow meow and have since been made class B drugs, “tightened their grip on the recreational drug scene in western Europe but especially the British Isles”, the report said.
It went on: “The rapidity with which these new substances have emerged appears to be at an increasing rate.”
Deaths from use of methcathinones – which include mephedrone, commonly known as meow meow – rocketed to a total of 43 in 2010 from five the previous year, the figures based on information from coroners revealed.
Overall, drug-related deaths in the UK fell by almost 14 per cent to 1,883 in 2010 from 2,182 the previous year.