Coroner says more people fatally overdose on fake benzos

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

LANCASTER, SC – The CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics released data in 2021 that estimated there were more than 100,000 drug overdose deaths in a year.

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Lancaster County Coroner Karla Deese said she is seeing more people overdosing on fake benzodiazepines, or benzos, which are often used to treat anxiety and insomnia. Popular brands of benzos include Xanax and Valium.

“There’s a new kid on the block,” Deese said. “Just like prescription opioids had a fake cousin, if you will, benzodiazepines now have a fake cousin or illicit versions on the street.”

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

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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 also 100% fatal, and Narcan does not reverse the effects of these,” Deese said. “So we’re going to be losing lives at a much faster rate, because of 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.

“Addiction is exploited by the dealers and by the people who manufacture the illicit substances because they don’t care if it’s lethal,” Deese said. “All that matters to them is that they make money.”

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

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