Nine people have tragically died within just weeks after allegedly taking dangerous street Valium, the Paisley Daily Express can reveal.
An urgent warning to drug users has now been released amid fears the deaths could be linked to Eitzolam.
Drugs charity bosses in Renfrewshire say some users fear the unprescribed pills could be laced with concrete or rat poison.
They fear more people could die if action isn’t taken.
David Connell, of Paisley charity Street Connect, said: “The street Valium is a massive problem just now.
“The problem is that there really is so little Valium in them.
“One of the people we work with had heard that the ones circulating just now had concrete in them.
“It’s really concerning.”
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Four people have been identified as potential victims of the dangerous street pills following their tragic deaths last month.
Stephen Mclachlan, 37, and Lisa Gilchrist, 38, were found dead in a property on the town’s Espedair Street on January 10.
Just two weeks later on January 25, 28-year-old Diane Sanderson was found dead within a property on Stock Street – just minutes from Espedair Street.
A 37-year-old man, Hiatam Gibali, was rushed to the Royal Alexandra Hospital after being found unwell in a nearby flat close in the same street. But medics were unable to save him.
However, while the loss of four people has sent shockwaves through the town, an email seen by the Paisley Daily Express from Renfrewshire Health and Social Care Partnership (HSCP) reports there have actually been a total of nine deaths in recent weeks which may be linked to illicit drugs.
It is not known when the other five deaths took place.
Police confirmed that none of the deaths were being treated as suspicious.
Officers investigating would not confirm if the deaths were believed to be linked to Etizolam, however they have said inquiries are ongoing to establish if drugs were involved.
Detective Superintendent Gerry McBride, Police Scotland, said: “Police Scotland fully supports the messaging provided by Public Health Scotland in respect of these recent deaths and are continuing to support the families of those who have lost their lives in such tragic circumstances.
“Inquiries are ongoing into the causes of death in each of the cases and whether any suspected drug involvement is involved.
“We also ask for the support of the public and community in coming forward with any information in relation to the incidents and that may be of relevance to the investigations.”
NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde (NHSGGC) and the Renfrewshire Alcohol and Drugs Partnership (ADP) are also asking people who use drugs or know someone who does to be vigilant and aware of overdose risks.
An advisory group has been launched in the community, with health officials saying they must “act now” to prevent more deaths.
A memo sent to all Renfrewshire councilors reads: “Urgent advice is being issued to communities across Renfrewshire as a result of nine tragic deaths in the area in recent weeks that may be linked to illicit drugs.
“Early indications suggest non prescribed street benzodiazepines (eg Etizolam, street Valium / diazepam) may have been involved.
“NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde and Renfrewshire Alcohol and Drug Partnership (ADP) have agreed to a Problem Assessment Group (PAG) made up of experts from health and other services to ensure early action is taken to minimize the risk of further deaths.
“People who use drugs and those who may know someone who uses drugs are being asked to please be particularly vigilant and aware of overdose risks and have been provided with harm reduction advice.”
A warning was also issued to the public which urged drug users to be wary of unidentified tablets that seem stronger than usual.
They are being urged to have someone with them when they take drugs and for a few hours after.
Dr Daniel Carter, consultant in public health medicine at NHSGGC and chair of the problem advisory group, said: “Although the cause of these deaths has not yet been established, it is important that we act now.
“We would like to remind everyone who uses illicit drugs and their friends and families of the measures they can take to minimize the risk of drug deaths or overdoses.
“Please share this important message, be extremely cautious and follow advice.
“Every death from drugs is a tragedy and I send my condolences to anyone who has lost a loved one.”
The town’s community policing team has been carrying out regular patrols in the area and engaging with the public and businesses following both incidents.
Reassurances have been given to the public, with community cops handing out Crimestopper leaflets encouraging people to report any concerns they may have.
Inspector Laura Hamill, of Paisley’s community policing team, said: “There has been an increase in police presence in the area over the last few weeks as officers from the community policing team continue to engage with people in the local community as well as business owners. .
“We are keen to inform people on how they can report any concerns or criminal activity, in particular the Crimestoppers number which enables people to report crimes anonymously.
“We were pleased with the engagement from people, in particular local businesses, with many agreeing to display Crimestoppers posters with details on how to report a crime in their windows.”
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.