Teenagers overdose on drugs stolen in raid: Ten treated in hospital after burglary on housing estate. Jason Bennetto reports

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The Independent Online
Ten teenagers had their stomachs pumped yesterday after overdosing on drugs, including sleeping tablets and a heroin substitute, which were stolen during a house burglary.

Six were still in hospital last night. A 16-year-old boy, found unconscious in a flat by his stepfather, was in a serious condition and a 14-year-old boy was 'very seriously ill' on a life-support machine in intensive care.

Police with loudhailers toured the Sherburn Road estate in Durham, where most of the overdose victims live and which has a history of teenage drug abuse, warning other teenagers and their parents against taking the narcotics. Brian Crooks, who found his stepson, Jamie Corbett, and five friends in a near unconscious state in the flat, said: 'When you live on an estate like this you always talk to your kids about drugs but I just hope Jamie pulls through and realises the mistake he made.'

The alarm was raised after the 10 - three of them girls - aged from 14 to 19, were taken to Dryburn Hospital, Durham, early yesterday morning. The teenagers are believed to have taken drugs snatched on Monday night from a house close to the housing estate.

The thieves stole four bottles totalling a litre of methadone, the heroin substitute; 100 tablets of Temazepam, a popular sleeping drug, and 170 valium tablets. They are all prescribed drugs which were being held legally.

One of the drugs victims, a 15- year-old girl, reportedly drank half a cupful of methadone. Her sister said: 'She came in looking very white and didn't know where she was. She said it tasted sweet, a bit like lime and it was quite nice.

'She got worse and worse and turned very pale and shaky. We got an ambulance. She has had her stomach pumped and she is being kept in hospital but she looks as if she is going to be OK.

'It was a hell of a fright. She didn't know what she was dabbling with and we don't know where she got the stuff from.'

A 14-year-old girl said tablets and a liquid drug were being handed out from a garden on the estate.

Detective Inspector Mick Burdess said: 'It is very likely there are still drugs lying about on that estate and we are desperate to avoid a tragedy.'

Temazepam, which can cost as little as pounds 1, is becoming increasingly popular among young people in the north of England and Scotland.

Some teenagers are heating the substance, which comes in a gel or a tablet, and injecting the liquid. Gangrene can result and mixing it with alcohol can also be fatal. Most people take it orally. The drug is often known as 'wobbly eggs' because one of the effects is to make the user stagger.

Drug dealers have been obtaining the tablets by breaking into chemists' shops and looting cars of doctors making house calls.

A police spokesman said: 'It's an incredibly fashionable drug at the moment and it's a problem that's not going to go away in the near future.'

The police have recovered some of the stolen methadone but the rest of the drugs remained missing. A 26-year-old man was last night helping detectives with inquiries.

The growing threat of narcotics will be discussed at the Association of Chief Police Officers' annual drugs conference today.

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