State officials on Monday said the state has seen a 50-percent increase in drug deaths over the same time last year, putting it on pace to set a record for the number of drug-related fatalities.

Officials say the increase -- from 126 in 2015 to 189 this year -- is due in large part to fentanyl, an illicitly manufactured drug that is many times more lethal than morphine. The drug, often presented to users as heroin, caused 44 percent of the deaths from January to June 2016.

In 2015, Maine experienced a total of 272 overdose deaths, 126 in the first half of the year and 146 in the second half, according ot figures released by the Maine Office of the Attorney General. This year’s total may be at least 378 or higher. Pharmaceutical painkillers, often trafficked from out of state, have continued to be an important feature of overdose deaths, affecting about 45% of the deaths, according to a news release.

“Fentanyl, heroin, and painkillers are exacting a tremendous toll on our state,” said Attorney General Janet T. Mills. “These figures are very distressing. People should know there is no safe amount to sniff or shoot. There is no safe party pill, and combinations can be lethal. If it doesn’t kill you it will lead to a lifetime of addiction, illness and hopelessness. If a person is tempted to try these drugs, even if they are not thinking of their own well being, they should be thinking of the well being of their family, friends and loved ones. There is hope for persons with substance abuse disorders, if they take the right steps and ask for help. More importantly, people should not try these drugs in the first place. I hope that more people get the message before another grim record is set in this state.”

This analysis was conducted for the Office of the Attorney General by Dr. Marcella Sorg of the University of Maine, Margaret Chase Smith Center.