Five legal high hospital admissions prompt GP warning
Five separate hospital admissions all linked to legal highs in Torbay have prompted health chiefs to write to GPs about their concerns.
The incidents all involved teenagers, including one who suffered a stroke and another who had to be treated in intensive care.
Legal highs are chemical substances that can mimic the effects of illicit drugs, but are not illegal to possess.
Torbay's director of public health said it was a "worrying trend".
"I cannot emphasise strongly enough the potential consequences of taking such substances," Debbie Stark said.
Rise in deaths
The director said users of legal highs can never be sure what they are taking or what the effects could be.
"In most cases, the chemicals have never before been used in drugs for human consumption, so they haven't been tested to show that they are safe," she added
South Devon and Torbay Clinical Commissioning Group (CGC), which organises healthcare in the area, has now written to all GPs.
Dr Jo Roberts, the CCG clinical lead for use of medicines, said: "We want to make sure that all our doctors are fully informed about 'legal highs', their ready availability, and the risks associated with them."
It has also set up a multi-agency team - including Devon and Cornwall Police - to tackle the issue and highlight the potential dangers to young people.
"We'll be speaking to parents, we'll be going into schools and we'll also be approaching the international schools to make sure the message gets out that although these are legal, they're very, very dangerous," Torbay community safety sergeant Lou Costin said.
A report by the Centre for Social Justice said the number of deaths in England and Wales from legal highs rose from 28 in 2011 to 52 last year.