By CBSLA Staff

ORANGE COUNTY (CBSLA) — The Orange County District Attorney’s office will begin prosecuting convicted drug dealers for murder as fentanyl-related deaths continue to drastically rise. 

“Currently in the Orange County Coroner Office there’s 450 drug-related deaths that are pending toxicology,” said district attorney Todd Spitzer. “I’m going to tell you it’s probably going to be true that all those deaths are related to fentanyl. I’m not going to let drug dealers get away with murder. It’s not going to happen anymore.”

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Spitzer is following in the footsteps of his colleague Riverside district attorney Mike Hestrin. LAst year, the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office began prosecuting convicted drug dealers for murder after fentanyl-related deaths skyrocketed in four years.

“In Riverside County in 2016 had two fentanyl-related deaths,” Hestrin said. “This year we’re on pace to have between [500] and 600.”

Fentanyl, heroin’s deadlier synthetic cousin, has worsened the opioid epidemic since only a minuscule amount can kill a person. For comparison, experts said that 3 milligrams of fentanyl is enough to kill a person — a tenth of the 30 milligrams of heroin needed for a lethal dose. This tiny amount makes it so fentanyl can easily be disguised with other drugs, sometimes in legitimate pills.

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During his press conference, Spitzer brought on stage parents and families of overdose victims. 

“Most people are not using but the numbers tell us that each one of you know someone who is using or soon will,” said Amy Neville. 

Neville’s son, 14-year-old Alexander died after ingesting a lethal dose of fentanyl. 

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The Drug Enforcement Administration advises everyone to talk to their loved ones about the dangers of fentanyl.