LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KARK) – For the first time, fentanyl has surpassed methamphetamine as the leading cause of overdose deaths in Arkansas.

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is 80 to 100 times stronger than morphine.

According to data released by the Arkansas State Crime Lab, in 2020 there were 148 overdose deaths due to fentanyl compared to 142 meth-related overdose deaths.

In 2019, there were 80 fentanyl overdoses deaths reported, a 46 percent increase in just one year.

State Drug Director Kirk Lane said while the stressors of the pandemic are partially to blame, illicit drugs coming from drug cartels in China and Mexico are the primary cause behind this surge.

“With the influx of heavy methamphetamine distribution in our state and the influx of illicit fentanyl and heroin, it’s a perfect storm,” said State Drug Director, Kirk Lane. “With fentanyl in the game, any drug use could be deadly. It could be your first use, it could be your second use, it could be your 100th use.”

Lane said poly-drug overdose deaths, with meth and fentanyl combined, are also increasing at an alarming rate. He said we are seeing fentanyl in not just meth, but cocaine, marijuana and even alcohol.