For the past three weeks, authorities have been tracking batches of deadly fentanyl-laced heroin that has been moving east from Pittsburgh.

Twenty-two people in western Pennsylvania died of overdoses in the past week. Authorities believe that most of the deaths were related to heroin laced with fentanyl, a powerful narcotic typically prescribed to terminal cancer patients as means of pain management.

It is 100 times more powerful than morphine, and in combination with heroin can shut down the respiratory system of users.

The laced heroin went by the street names "Theraflu" and "Bud Ice" in Pennsylvania, but as it made its way to Long Island it was re-branded as "24K."

It has already been linked to five Long Island overdoses.

The Nassau County medical examiner's chief toxicologist told Newsday that "this is all happening very rapidly." The county issued a "contaminated heroin alert" on Thursday to prevent more overdoses.

Last month, 22 people in Rhode Island died in thirteen days. Authorities determined the cause of death in nineteen of them to have been the fentanyl-laced heroin.

Authorities have not said whether the fentanyl-laced heroin played a role in Academy Award-winning actor's death on Sunday.

[Image via AFP]