As the B.C. government launches legal action against drug manufacturers in the ongoing opioid crisis, a new overdose alert has been issued to drug users on Vancouver Island.

Island Health is reporting a spike in illicit drug overdoses in Nanaimo, Port Alberni and the Oceanside area in the past 24 hours.

The health authority says it's likely there has been at least one death amid the increase in overdoses.

They've also seen an increase in trips to the hospital where drug users have reported more severe overdose symptoms. Those cases have required more naloxone than usual to reverse the overdoses.

The exact drugs causing the problem aren't known but officials say it's a type of opioid, likely heroin or fentanyl.

"It is a higher risk, more toxic, more potent sort of drug," said Health Officer Dr. Paul Hasselback. "That means users need to reduce the amount they're using, preferably use where there's someone around who isn't using and has naloxone."

Officials say if you're going to use illicit drugs, it's more important than ever to take precautions like trying a small test before a regular hit, using with a friend and staggering drug use.

Drug users can also visit overdose prevention sites in Nanaimo and Port Alberni, where staff have a ready supply of naloxone and other resources to help.

Though the opioid crisis was declared a provincial health emergency more than two years ago, Island Health has only issued a handful of alerts during that time about bad batches of drugs.

The alert comes the same day that the B.C. government filed a lawsuit against pharmaceutical companies over the ongoing crisis.

The lawsuit asks for the companies to pay costs associated with opioid addiction, which killed nearly 4,000 Canadians last year, according to the government.