The federal government said Tuesday it intends to put a street drug known as "bath salts" under the same regulations as cocaine and heroin.

Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq said the government will place the key ingredient in the drug, MDPV, under Schedule 1 of the Controlled Substances Act. The move will make possessing, trafficking, importing and exporting, or manufacturing the drug a criminal offence.

"This action shows our government's commitment to protecting the health and safety of Canadians from this dangerous substance," Aglukkaq told reporters.

"This action helps give law enforcement the tools they need to keep our streets safe from this new and emerging drug that ruins lives and causes havoc in communities across the country."

MDPV, or methylenedioxypyrovalerone, is a synthetic amphetamine that delivers a powerful high. It is also known to cause dangerous side effects, such as violent hallucinations, fear and can lead to a feeling of paranoia.

The drug has earned the nickname "bath salts" because the finished product resembles the scented bath products found in many Canadian homes.

The drug was implicated in a grisly attack in Miami on May 26, when one man chewed the flesh off another man's face on a highway as horrified motorists looked on. Police were unable to subdue the attacker, 31-year-old Rudy Eugene, and shot him dead.

Officers have speculated that Eugene, whose family described him as a mild-mannered individual who rarely drank or did drugs, may have taken MDPV.

In the wake of that incident, U.S. officials moved to regulate MDPV, "and now Canadian authorities are doing the same thing," reported CTV News Channel's Mercedes Stephenson.

Fredericton Police Chief Barry MacKnight said MDPV is difficult for police to track in Canada because it is legal. However, its presence is growing in Canada, particularly in the Atlantic provinces, as well as in Ontario and in the West.

"This drug, along with the behaviours associated to those who have been using the bath salts, are a serious concern to the police and many others in our communities," said MacKnight, who chairs the drug-abuse committee of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police.

"This is sending a strong message to Canadians and especially young Canadians, that this drug is harmful, while also allowing enforcement agencies to deal with those who victimize some of the most vulnerable in our communities -- the young and those suffering from addiction -- by selling this drug."

The proposed changes are first subject to a 30-day comment period, then are sent on to the Treasury Board as a series of new regulations. The Treasury Board would then approve the changes and publish them in the Canada Gazette, likely in the fall.

While that process can take between one and two years, the government intends to fast-track the process over concerns about the drug's effects.

"We owe it to our children and our communities to remove these serious health threats as quickly as we possibly can," Aglukkaq said.

With files from The Canadian Press