Northumbria Police have issued a warning over the use of legal highs following the death of a teenager in South Shields.
The 18 year-old man, named locally as South Tyneside College student Andrew Lourie, died on February 25 after being taken to hospital from an address on Mortimer Road.
Although police are still awaiting results of toxicology tests, officers are looking into the possibility he had taken a legal high.
Mr Lourie was a Grade 3 Marine Engineering Student on the prestigious course based in South Shields.
It has emerged that his two housemates, also students at the college, were both arrested after Mr Lourie fell ill.
They gave police statements and were later released with no charges brought against them.
The pair did not wish to comment when approached by Sky Tyne and Wear.
A classmate of Mr Lourie, who did not wish to be named, said: "It's tragic what happened to Andrew.
"He was such a nice kid and had a really good career ahead of him.
Hours after his death, a tribute group was posted on Facebook called R.I.P Andrew Lourie. Within a day it already had nearly 150 members.
One friend said: “Four of the most special weeks of my life were shared with you. Love always.”
Ross David Stewart said: “Facebook will probably crash with tributes.”
Neighbourhood Inspector Peter Sutton said: "While there is no specific issue with legal high substances in South Shields, we are aware of the growing trend in their use in other parts of the country.
"I would like to stress that the use of so called legal high drugs is not safe and can kill or have a devastating impact upon your health."
Symptoms of illness as a result of legal highs include reduced inhibitions, drowsiness, excited or paranoid states, unconsciousness and seizures.
Police are warning that these can be worse if legal highs are taken alongside alcohol.
Melanie Soutar, South Tyneside Matrix young people's service manager, said: "We need to continue to raise public awareness that just because a drug is legal to possess, it doesn’t mean it’s safe.
Lindsey Whiterod, Principal and Chief Executive at South Tyneside College, said: “Everyone at South Tyneside College is extremely shocked and saddened by the news.
“Andrew was a very bright and popular student. Our thoughts are with his family and friends at this very sad time and we send them our heartfelt sympathy.”
Ian Spreadborough, Managing Director, Ship Safe Training Group Ltd, said: “Andrew was a promising second year cadet with Ship Safe Training Group.
“Staff and colleagues from across the group are all devastated by the news and wish to extend their heartfelt condolences to Andrew’s family and friends.”
The potential dangers of taking legal highs were highlighted by the deaths of several British teenagers which led to the party drug mephedrone being banned in 2011.
And in November 2011, a 21-year-old Newcastle woman became seriously ill after taking legal high tablets and was taken to Newcastle's Royal Victoria Infirmary in a critical condition.
The drugs are designed to produce a similar high to illegal substances such as cocaine, ecstasy, speed and cannabis.
They are often purchased online or from small, specialist high street retailers.
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