Young recreational drug users in Halifax are being warned about the dangers of illicit fentanyl by police, who say officers have found thousands of pills on the city's streets cut with the opioid.

"The kids, the young adults that are going downtown and want to get high so they buy a pill from a drug dealer. You don't know what's in that pill," said Halifax Regional Police Staff Sgt. Darryl Gaudet.

Pills look real

Illicit fentanyl, the kind police are finding, is not pure. These are homemade pills mixed with a number of substances that look real because drug dealers are using high-grade pill presses.

They are typically dark green or light blue and they are made to look authentic by stamping "CDN" on one side of the pill and "80" on the other.

dark green fake oxycodone laced with fentanyl

Dark green fake oxycodone laced with fentanyl police have found in Halifax. (Halifax Regional Police)

Officers in Halifax have seized fake oxycodone pills made of fentanyl powder six times during drug raids since Jan. 1.

"They cut the pills with a lot of different cuts. It could be caffeine and then they'll mix a grain of fentanyl in there," Gaudet said.

Deadly consequences

A top priority for police, Gaudet said, is to find out who is making the illicit fentanyl pills and where it is coming form.

Police said in other parts of Canada, fentanyl has been used to cut cocaine or make fake crack cocaine. 

Some opioid users are turning to fentanyl as other opioid pills become more difficult to find, police said.

powder laced with fentanyl

Powder laced with fentanyl. (Halifax Regional Police)

A lethal dose of fentanyl can be as little as two milligrams — which is equal to about two grains of salt, police said.

It can pose risks to others, like first responders, because it can be absorbed through the skin through incidental contact or inhaled if drug particles are airborne.

"We talk to a lot of addicts on the street. A lot of them know they're using fentanyl and they prepare themselves for that by having naloxone kits standing by," said Gaudet.

With files from The Canadian Press