MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Preliminary data shows that Minnesota in 2017 experienced a surge in deaths caused by fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid.

According to the Minnesota Department of Health, a preliminary analysis of death records shows that synthetic opioid-involved deaths increased 74 percent from 2016 to 2017.

The MDH says the increase is largely due to fentanyl. Of the 172 deaths involving synthetic opioids, 156 of them had fentanyl listed as a contributing to the death. That’s 91 percent of the cases.

“This dramatic increase shows that the opioid epidemic in Minnesota has also become a fentanyl public health crisis,” Minnesota Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm said. “These data confirm that Minnesotans addicted to opioids may unknowingly be exposing themselves to far greater and more deadly risks than they know. It is more important than ever for us to support Minnesotans in their efforts to seek help and treatment.”

(credit: Minnesota Department of Health)

The MDH says fentanyl’s growing impact is so great that it’s outweighing progress in other areas – like decreases in prescription opioid and heroin deaths – and has led to a total 3 percent increase in deaths from 675 in 2016 to 694 in 2017.

According to the MDH, commonly prescribed opioids have been involved in the greatest number of drug overdose deaths since 2000.

(credit: Minnesota Department of Health)

Health officials stress that the data contained in the report is preliminary and may change when finalized. A final report is expected by September 2018.

Related: Report: Fentanyl Level In Prince Was Exceedingly High

More information can be found on the Opioid Dashboard.