MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Opioid-related deaths continue to climb in Minnesota’s most populous county.

Sheriff Rich Stanek says preliminary reports show there were 162 deaths in 2017, but that number is expected to increase.

“This is startling to see an almost 50-percent increase in opioid-related deaths during the past two years,” Stanek said.

There were 153 deaths in 2016, and about 650 deaths combined in the past five years. Last year also marked the first carfentanil-related death in the county.

The sheriff’s office began the #NOverdose campaign last year to try to combat this public health crisis, teaming up with such organizations as the Minnesota Twins, Minnesota Vikings and the Minnesota State Fair to spread awareness.

Officials from the National Center for Health Statistics say drug overdoses are the leading cause of death for Americans under the age of 50.