PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Fentanyl-related overdose deaths are rising in Rhode Island, but the state health director says the total number of overdose deaths this year is expected to be around the same number as 2016.

WPRI-TV reports ( ) that state health department data show 35 percent of overdose deaths in the state were fentanyl-related in 2014, but have risen to 60 percent so far this year.

Still, Health Department Director Nicole Alexander-Scott says she expects total overdose deaths to plateau around last year’s numbers. In 2016, 336 people in Rhode Island died from overdoses. So far this year, 163 fatal overdoses have been reported.

Fentanyl is normally prescribed for those who suffer chronic pain, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the drug is now being mixed with heroin or cocaine.

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