ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Drug overdose deaths in New Mexico in 2020 increased by 25% from the previous year, continuing a trend seen before the pandemic.

Increased abuse of the deadly synthetic opioid fentanyl pumped up the number of overdose deaths to 721 in 2019, up from 574 in 2019, the Albuquerque Journal reported.

The provisional numbers were gathered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and broken down by QuoteWizard, a division of LendingTree, according to the Journal.

Fentanyl is an extremely potent opioid that is prescribed for legitimate medical uses, including treatment of cancer patients and in surgical anesthesia, but it also is smuggled into the United States from Mexico and often trafficked illegally in counterfeit pills known as “blues.”

“The pervasiveness of fentanyl on the illicit drug market in New Mexico is one of the most daunting public safety issues we face,” said Fred Federici, acting U.S. attorney for New Mexico. “Over the past several years, we have seen the prevalence of fentanyl rise from occasional seizures to an alarming number of cases.”