'Toxic' Overdoses Skyrocket in Delaware

Fentanyl Citrate, a CLASS II Controlled Substance as classified by the Drug Enforcement Agency. Getty Images

Delaware officials are raising concerns about the sharp increase in the number of overdose deaths linked to the drug fentanyl.

The Delaware Department of Health and Social Services and the Department of Safety and Homeland Security said Wednesday that 44 people died from overdoses involving fentanyl between January and mid-May.

That's more than the total number of people who died from fentanyl overdoses in all of 2015. In 2012, there were just 15 fentanyl-related deaths in Delaware.

Officials say the synthetic painkiller is more than 50 times more potent than heroin.

DSHS Secretary James Mosley says fentanyl is "so toxic" that it greatly increases the chance of death.

Officials are urging people to visit the DHSS website or call DHSS' 24/7 Crisis Services Helpline to find addiction treatment options.