There's a dangerous new twist to New Jersey's ongoing heroin epidemic - dozens of users have overdosed because dealers are mixing their product with the narcotic painkiller fentanyl to boost their profits.

One of the stamps used on wax folds containing heroin
One of the stamps used on wax folds containing heroin (NJ State Police)

Fentanyl, which is very powerful, is usually only given to advanced cancer patients who are suffering extreme pain.

"The problem is it's so potent that somebody thinking that they're taking, say two bags of heroin - if they're taking two bags of fentanyl, even if it's cut way down, it could be enough to kill them," said Steve Liga, executive director of the Middlesex County Chapter of the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence.

Liga said like other types of narcotics, too much fentanyl can have deadly results.

"It can depress your central nervous system, so your heart can stop beating and your lungs can stop breathing because your body is too relaxed," Liga said. "You go into an overdose, and you just slip out of consciousness and don't come back."

Liga said people who get illegal drugs laced with fentanyl won't have any idea what they're taking.

"It is colorless, odorless, tasteless, that's why it's so easy to slip into other things," he said. "There's no way you can tell it's there."

He said it used to be difficult to obtain fentanyl, usually you'd have to steal it or get someone else's prescription, "but now there's simple instructions you can find on the internet on how to make your own, so it's gotten a whole lot easier to access."

According to Liga, there is concern more and more drug dealers may start using fentanyl more frequently because it's cheap, so they can dramatically increase the volume of product they're selling, which will increase their profit margin substantially.