BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The rise of dangerous designer drugs has pushed the European Union to propose tighter rules to combat their use, the European Commission said on Monday.

The commission is considering various steps in the fight against narcotics such as 'Spice,' a synthetic form of cannabis, including bringing drug control measures into line with those dealing with food and product safety.

Some synthetic drugs have been able to avoid prohibition due to their chemical composition being legal or unregulated, and current EU-wide controls have failed to keep up with new substances or deal with permitted compounds that could be harmful if misused.

"New synthetic drugs are becoming widely available at an unprecedented pace in Europe. They can be toxic (and) addictive and have long-term adverse effects," EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding said in a statement.

"The current system of detecting these new drugs is not fit to tackle the large increase in the number of these substances on the market," she added.

In 2010, 41 new psychoactive drugs entered the market, including plant-based compounds, synthetic derivatives of well-established drugs and designer drugs, up from 24 in 2009, the commission says. A total of 115 have appeared since 2005.

Only twice have EU-wide measures been used to issue a ban. Once they were used to target BZP, or benzylpiperazine, a stimulant which has been linked to psychosis and seizures.

The second time was to outlaw mephedrone, also known as 'Meow Meow' and which was falsely marketed as a plant fertilizer. EU justice ministers agreed last December to ban it.

Ireland tops the list of EU member countries in terms of the proportion of young people who have consumed synthetic drugs -- 16 percent, according to an EU survey. Poland and Latvia were next with 9 percent, followed by Britain and Luxembourg, with 8 and 7 percent respectively.

Five percent of young people in the EU as a whole said they had used synthetic drugs.