An ongoing drug investigation in Strathcona County has uncovered heroin that is laced with the dangerous and potentially deadly drug carfentanil.
Over the course of the investigation, which dates back to October 2016, police said quantities of a substance believed to be heroin were seized by RCMP and sent to Health Canada for analysis.
The analysis revealed carfentanil was present in the heroin.
RCMP have released the information as a warning of the dangers of the deadly opioid. Carfentanil is about 100 times stronger than fentanyl, which is about 100 times more powerful than morphine.
READ MORE: What is carfentanil?
Health officials say carfentanil is so strong, an amount equal to a single grain of sand can be lethal.
“It is extremely harmful and even the tiniest of particles could prove lethal,” RCMP said in a media release Friday afternoon.
Carfentanil was linked to at least 15 deaths in Alberta last year, 14 of which occurred between September and the end of November. Since such a small amount of the drug can be deadly, toxicology tests can have trouble confirming its existence in human blood.
Acting Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Elizabeth Brooks-Lim said in October there are few laboratories in North America that are able to measure carfentanil in human blood.
Carfentanil is an opioid drug licensed for use with large animals but not for humans.
Between January and September 2016, there were 193 fentanyl-related deaths in Edmonton. In the same time frame in 2015, 205 people died in Alberta due to fentanyl overdoses.