Police have issued a warning after a six young people in one town were the victims of a scam involving a drug that officers have described as "400 times more powerful than cannabis".
In just a few days, six people in the Loire town of Roanne, aged between 16 and 20, have been affected by the synthetic drug that they ingested while smoking a counterfeit cigarette that they told police was offered to them.
In one instance, two teenage victims passed out after just one or two drags on a cigarette they had been offered. When they woke up, their mobile phones had been taken.
"Victims are no longer aware of what they are doing," Bruno Courleux, Deputy Head of the Brigade de sûreté urbaine de Roanne. The effects are devastating, he added and said they "suggest a synthetic drug that is 400 times more powerful than cannabis".
A third victim was eating gravel when they were found, while another attacked a firefighter called to help, reports say.
Police fear that the drug may be similar to one that is wreaking havoc among young people on the islands of Reunion and Mayotte - but attempts to identify the substance and the traffickers have so far drawn a blank.
The public prosecutor of Roanne has opened an investigation for aggravated theft and administration of harmful substances. "I call for caution," Abdelkrim Grini warned France Bleu Saint-Étienne-Loire. "I invite all young people approached in this way to refuse any cigarette, or at least not to share a cigarette with strangers."
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