European Union health ministers on Wednesday tackled the issue of designer drugs, as the bloc's current leader Poland urged its 26 fellow member nations to step up the fight.
"The biggest problem is the distribution of designer drugs via the Internet," Poland's Health Minister Ewa Kopacz told reporters after talks with her counterparts in the Baltic Sea resort of Sopot.
"We need to take European-level action to fight against that form of supply," she added.
Poland, whose six-month term at helm of the EU started last Friday, has cracked down at home on such laboratory-created drugs, which imitate the effect of banned narcotics but whose individual chemical components are not necessarily illegal.
"There's no sense in banning such substances in a single EU member state. We need to work towards uniform legislation across the EU," said Adam Fronczak, Poland's deputy health minister.
Last October, Poland's parliament passed legislation to plug loopholes that had allowed the production and sale of designer drugs.
Violations are now subject to fines ranging from 20,000 to one million zloty (5,000 to 250,000 euros, $7,200 to $360,000) based on the amount produced or distributed.
Until the change, such drugs had been sold legally as their molecular structure differs from banned narcotics despite having similar effects.
The authorities moved against the trendy so-called "legal highs" after they made headlines, with users hospitalised and a handful of fatalities believed to be linked to their use.
The authorities had had trouble clamping down because the drugs' makers kept one step ahead by varying the composition -- as soon as one chemical component was banned they replaced it with another with a similar effect.
The now-closed sales outlets also used ruses to duck inspections, such as labelling packets of drugs as collector's items or garden fertiliser.