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'These are 100% lethal' | Coroner says more people are fatally overdosing on fake benzos

Benzodiazepines, or benzos, are often used to treat anxiety and insomnia. Popular brand names of benzos include Xanax and Valium.

LANCASTER, S.C. — The CDC's National Center for Health Statistics released data in 2021 estimating there were more than 100,000 drug overdose deaths in one year.

RELATED: 'There is help out there' | CMPD officers are seeing more calls for overdoses, and more people dying

Lancaster County Coroner Karla Deese said she is seeing more people overdose from fake Benzodiazepines, or benzos, which are often used to treat anxiety and insomnia. Popular brand names of benzos include Xanax and Valium.

“There's a new kid on the block," Deese said. "So much like prescription opioids had a fake cousin, if you will, benzodiazepines now have a fake cousin out there or illicit versions on the street."

Counterfeit pills laced with fentanyl have been a concern for the last several years, but this year’s data is even more alarming.

RELATED: After their mother's overdose death, Guilford County sisters speak out

Deese said she started seeing fake benzos about three years ago, but this year she says they’ve become more common. Narcan does not reverse its effects.

“These are 100% lethal as well, and Narcan does not reverse the effects of those," Deese said. "So we are going to be losing life at a much more rapid pace, due to these illicit benzos."

The DEA says fake prescription pills are often sold on social media and other e-commerce platforms – where minors can easily access them.

"The addiction is capitalized upon by dealers and by people that manufacture illicit substances because it doesn't matter to them that it's deadly," Deese said. "All that matters to them is that they're making money."

Contact Indira Eskieva at ieskieva@wcnc.com and follow her on Facebook and Twitter and Instagram.