Medics are warning of an uptick in overdoses following a federal crackdown on prescription opioids.
According to a report released Monday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number reported by the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) in 2016 was up more than 60 percent compared to the same time last year.
The rise is attributed to a number of factors, including the opioid epidemic and a number to do with increased access to painkillers, said Dr. Steven J. Smith, an assistant professor at the University of Texas Medical Branch.
The rise in overdose deaths also coincides with the opioid crisis, which has seen the number and cost of prescriptions for prescription opioids quadruple over the last two years.
“There is an increased availability of opioid analgesics, and that’s been the primary factor,” Smith said.
“This is an issue of a significant economic impact on communities across the country.”CMS reported that there were more than 23,000 opioid overdose deaths in 2016, which was an increase of 5.4 percent from the previous year.
More than 22,500 people died from opioid overdoses in 2016.
The report noted that there was a significant decrease in the number (2,764) of deaths reported by Medicaid in 2016 compared to 2015.
“More than 5,000 Medicaid beneficiaries died from opioids in 2016,” Smith added.
“The increase in opioid deaths and opioid overdose rates is a significant and alarming problem for the country.
These are serious numbers.”
Smith said that the spike in overdoses is not just attributable to the opioid shortage, but also to the increasing number of prescription opioid abuse.
“We know that more and more people are using opioids to control their pain and symptoms, which means they’re not only increasing their pain but also their ability to access opioid painkillers,” Smith told ABC News.
“If we can’t treat addiction with treatment and prevent addiction, it’s going to lead to a further increase in the opioid supply.”
The opioid crisis has had a devastating impact on the lives of people in rural communities and the working poor.
In the United States, rural counties saw an increase in heroin use and overdose rates during the opioid boom.
According to a recent report from the University, the U and B counties in Mississippi, the largest in the U., saw the highest heroin overdose rates in the nation.
In addition, Smith said, the opioid addiction crisis has contributed to the rise in opioid addiction in other parts of the country, including Florida and Kentucky.ABC News’ Jeff Mapes contributed to this report.