A TEENAGE thief almost died because of his addiction to legal highs, a court heard.
The 17-year-old, who cannot be named for legal reasons, told the court he had “flatlined” twice after taking the drugs.
It comes after police issued a fresh warning recently when a man needed hospital for taking a substance known as Rapture.
An expert today warned of the dangers of legal highs, labelling them as “extremely dangerous”.
The 17-year-old thief pleaded guilty to four offences of theft at Sunderland Youth Court and also admitted criminal damage and breach of a referral order.
The court was told he stole two packets of sweets from Tesco in Sunderland on January 27, before going on to target Debenhams, stealing more than £200 of aftershave in a two-week period.
Magistrates were told the criminal damage charge related to him kicking a door at a hostel. Ian Cassidy told the court that the 17-year-old started having problems with legal highs after leaving home.
“The legal highs he has been taking have had a devastating impact on his health,” said Mr Cassidy.
“He told me he has actually flatlined two or three times and has been very close to death. That has not shaken him from it until very recently.”
District Judge Roger Elsey said: “Your abuse of substances has clearly affected your ability to think clearly.
“The Youth Offending report shows that on two occasions, because of the use of substances, you have suffered cardiac arrest.
“No one in their right mind, with that history, would carry on using substances.” A recent investigation by the Echo revealed how Wearside teens were risking their lives taking legal highs packed with unknown chemicals.
Speaking after the court case, where the judge imposed a nine-month youth rehabilitation order and told the teenager to pay £40 court costs, psychiatrist Dr Stephen Westgarth warned of the dangers of legal highs.
Dr Westgarth, a child and adolescent psychiatrist who has worked with young people in Sunderland, said: “Legal highs are a problem. There is a myth about them; the assumption that because they are sold over the counter, they are in some way safe.
“But they are every bit, if not more dangerous, than illegal drugs.
“A young, developing brain is an amazingly complex and fragile organ; swamping it with a bizarre mixture of chemicals is extremely dangerous, you just don’t know where that kind of thing can lead.”