THREE teenage boys were taken to hospital after becoming ill smoking an “explosive” legal high known as Exodus.
Police have received a series of reports during the past five days of people suffering the ill-effects of the substance, usually burned as incense.
Last Saturday, a 33-year-old man from Concord was taken to Sunderland Royal Hospital after inhaling the chemical, while on the same day, a 14-year-old boy was admitted to Gateshead’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital with similar symptoms.
Seventy-two hours later, two boys, aged 16 and 14, became ill, again after reacting to the legal high.
The scares on Saturday are being treated by police as separate, but it is understood the two teenagers admitted to hospital on Tuesday had been together in the Jubilee Square area of Washington when they inhaled the substance.
In all cases, Exodus or Exodus Blue is believed to have been taken. Although legal, the substance is sold as an incense to be burned.
Police in Washington have seized a quantity of this and similar substances for testing, and have now issued a warning about the dangers of experimenting with legal highs. Inspector Paul Stewart, of Northumbria Police, said: “While this product can be sold and used legally, it’s an incense to be burned only, not to be consumed as it has been in these cases.
“Being misused in this way has resulted in people needing hospital treatment.
“Thankfully, those involved haven’t suffered any serious damage, but that’s not to say it can’t have a more devastating impact on people’s health.
“The use of legal highs is far from harmless.
“They can cause symptoms ranging from reduced inhibitions, drowsiness, excited or paranoid states, unconsciousness and seizures. These risks are increased if mixed with alcohol or other stimulants.”
Last August, another Washington teen needed hospital treatment after taking legal high Annihilation.
The 15-year-old schoolgirl suffered from the effects of the drug. According to its website, Exodus is “extremely strong” and “people new to herbal incense should avoid this particular blend which experienced users should use sparingly”.
Due to the number of incidents in the Washington area, neighbourhood police officers have arranged to visit schools, after the half-term break, to reinforce the message about the dangers of these substances.
Patrols have also been stepped up around Jubilee Square, where teens tend to congregate.
Insp Stewart added: “These substances also often contain potentially dangerous chemicals, which can prove fatal whichever way they are used, so it’s extremely important people avoid them.”
Anyone who needs advice on drugs should contact FRANK on 08700 77 6600 or visit www.talktofrank.com.