CHEAP and deadly pills are flooding Glasgow – causing a spike in drug deaths.

Experts have warned that the illegal “street blues” are responsible for an “unprecedented” number of drug-related deaths in the city among people known to homeless services.

Around three deaths a week are thought to have been caused by the pills.

Drug users have been warned they are “dicing with death” if they take the drugs, thinking they are Valium but are most likely much stronger and more dangerous.

It is understood that almost 20 people have died after taking the potent benzodiazepine pills in a six-week period between December last year and the middle of January.

The pills are thought to be behind a huge rise in drug deaths in the city.

Early data shows there was a 43 per cent rise in the number of people who died of drugs overdoses in Glasgow from January to October, last year, compared with the same period in 2017.

Hospitals also reported a big rise in people treaded for overdoses at Accident and Emergency departments.

Experts warned the pills are being sold to vulnerable people, many living in homeless hostels, for pennies and the market is being flooded with them.

Susanne Millar, chair of Glasgow’s Alcohol & Drug Partnership, said the number of deaths was “unprecedented”.

She said: “Glasgow is currently experiencing an unprecedented number of fatal and non-fatal overdoses believed to be linked to the use of street Valium, although we won’t know conclusively until we have all the toxicology.

“People are dicing with death by taking this drug, particularly if it is mixed with alcohol and other drugs. Warnings have been issued to people by homelessness and addictions services but sadly dealers are targeting the most vulnerable.

“A number of deaths have taken place among residents of settled homeless accommodation which is tragic and very unusual. Support is being offered to frontline staff who are being confronted by human tragedies when going to check on service users.”

In 2017, there was a 10-year record high of 192 drug-related deaths in Glasgow – a rise of 14 per cent, from 170 the year before.

In 121 of the deaths, benzodiazepines were present and listed as a factor in the death.

The 43 per cent increase is between January and October last year, meaning that the figure for 2018 will almost certainly rise to more than 250 deaths in Glasgow.

Experts warn that drug users can have no idea what is in the pills, and in what doses.

Saket Priyadarshi, Associate Medical Director, NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde Addiction Services, said: “I have been very concerned about the use of street blues for some time now.

“When people buy street blues, they do not know what is in the pills.

“The quality and dosage can be very variable.

“People might think they are taking diazepam but it may be other much more potent benzodiazepines such as Etizolam.”

Last week, the Evening Times reported that homelessness services were concerned about the growing use of street Valium.

Following the death of a woman in the Gallowgate area, whose death is being treated as unexplained, one service said its users were dying at a rate of around one a month.

Gus Smeaton of the Lodging House Mission said he was concerned about the increased use of street Valium.

He said: “Our view is that the drugs people are using seem to be becoming more dangerous and users don’t know what is in them. Street Valium seems to be a particular problem.”

Police said it was monitoring the drug trends to inform how it and other services responds.

Last month, a drugs gang was jailed for producing at least £1.6million worth of street Valium on an industrial scale in a garage in Paisley.

Police Scotland raided the garage and seized a pill press capable of producing 250,000 tablets an hour.