AUGUSTA, Maine — The powerful synthetic opioid fentanyl, which is made in clandestine labs and is blamed for multiple deaths when sold as heroin or mixed with the street drug in Maine and across the nation, is so dangerous that it can be deadly to the touch.

That is why it costs extra money to handle and test for the drug and why the medical examiner’s office is asking for more funding, Tim Feeley, spokesman for the Maine attorney general’s office, which oversees the examiner’s office, said Thursday.

The attorney general’s office was awarded $150,000 for fentanyl drug testing when the Maine Legislature approved $29 million in new spending in a supplemental state budget on March 2, and representatives from the office went before the Judicial Committee on Wednesday to ask for $300,000 more in the next biennial budget, Feeley said.

“There was [nearly] a 40 percent increase in drug overdose deaths between 2015 and 2016,” he said.

More than half — or 195 — of the 378 overdose deaths in 2016 were attributed to fentanyl, up from only nine in 2013, he said. Maine saw an increase of 106 deaths in 2016 from the previous record of 272 deaths set in 2015, according to data released by Attorney General Janet Mills in February.

“The number of overdose cases have increased but because of the drug, the fentanyl analogue tests have to be a little more sophisticated, and it adds to the costs,” Feeley said.

Fentanyl is up to 100 times more potent than morphine and often is mixed with heroin without the dealer or user knowing any better, Maine Drug Enforcement Agency Cmdr. Scott Pelletier said recently.

That is the reason why people are dying, he said, adding many users think they are taking heroin but instead are taking the much stronger fentanyl-laced heroin or straight fentanyl, and they end up overdosing.

“It truly is the Russian Roulette of drugs out there,” Pelletier said.

Pelletier said the synthetic drug, sometimes shipped to the U.S. through the mail, is so dangerous that all of the MDEA agents in Maine now carry Narcan, an opiate antidote, just in case of accidental exposure.

The medical examiner’s office works with five pathologists in Maine, two that are full-time state employees, and the attorney general also recently got approval to transfer funds to ensure the pathologist who works in Portland would continue to be paid through June, Feeley said, adding there was no change in the funding amounts.

He said the medical examiner’s office reviews every overdose death, and the data collected helps officials keep track of what deadly drugs are killing Mainers and it also provides closure for loved ones left behind.

“It’s important for families, but it’s also important from a public safety perspective,” Feeley said. “We need to know what is out there.”