Several recent deaths in the Inverclyde area have been linked as a possible cluster of illicit drug fatalities, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde has warned.
A panel of experts has already met to assess the potential situation and reduce the risk of further deaths.
Investigations are underway to establish the cause of the deaths with those who use illegal substances warned to be particularly vigilant and cautious of overdose risks.
Although the cause of the deaths has yet to be established the health board asked family and friends of users to pass on a message warning them to be extremely cautious of unidentified tablets or drugs that seem stronger than usual.
NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde said users should avoid taking illegal drugs while alone and should use no more than necessary.
It is also advised that they ensure Naloxone is available wherever you or others are using opiates such as heroin or methadone – the nasal spray can help reverse the effects of overdoses.
If an effect that is stronger than normal is experience then the drug users have been urged to let their local drug service know.
A Problem Assessment Group is working to ensure action is taken to “minimise the risk of further deaths”.
A spokesperson for Inverclyde Health and Social Care Partnership (HSCP) said: “While the cause of these deaths have not yet been established, we would nonetheless like to remind everyone who uses illicit drugs and their friends and families of the measures they can take to minimise the risk of drug deaths or overdoses.
“We would urge anyone who knows someone who takes illicit drugs to pass the message on to them to be extremely cautious and to follow this advice.
“We are engaging directly with the community through our established networks within Inverclyde and through our partner organisations.
“We will continue to work closely with those groups in Inverclyde and across Greater Glasgow and Clyde to ensure we’re able to care for people within this vulnerable community.”
Detective superintendent Gerry McBride said: “Police Scotland recognises that drugs are a significant source of harm, bringing misery to individuals, families and wider communities.
“Along with our partners we continue to try and tackle what is a complex public health issue, and provide holistic support to those affected.
“We are working closely with partners to monitor the situation in Inverclyde. Inquiries into a number of deaths remain ongoing and I strongly urge people to follow the NHS’s advice.”
The health board and HSCP reminded people who use drugs illegally of the ways they can engage with treatment and support services. Within Inverclyde in the first instance, they can contact their local GP, or Inverclyde Alcohol and Drug Recovery Service on 01475 715 353.
Information on Naloxone can be accessed through the harm reduction service at the Needle Exchange at the Wellpark Centre in Greenock.