- Associated Press - Monday, December 28, 2015

NEW CASTLE, Del. (AP) - Delaware health officials say overdose deaths involving the synthetic painkiller fentanyl (FENT-uh-nuhl) have nearly tripled this year.

State officials said Monday that 31 people died of fentanyl overdoses through Sept. 30. In all of 2014, there were 11 deaths linked to heroin that was tainted with fentanyl.

Health and Social Services Secretary James Mosley says one of the alarming things about the deaths is that heroin was present in just nine of the 31 cases.

Fentanyl is often mixed with heroin to create a potent high for users. The synthetic opioid can come in white powder form like heroin, leaving users unable to tell the difference. State officials say exposure to even small quantities of fentanyl can be fatal.

The spike in fentanyl-related deaths reflects a national trend.

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