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New SANDAG Report Finds Drug Use at a 20-Year High Among Adult Arrestees in 2019

October 22, 2020 -- Meth is the Drug of Choice for Both Men and Women Arrested in the San Diego Region

Drug use was at a 20-year high for both adult males and females arrested and booked into local detention facilities in 2019, according to a new SANDAG report, 2019 Adult Arrestee Drug Use in the San Diego Region.

The new report found 79% of males and 82% of females surveyed tested positive for at least one of the following drugs: marijuana, methamphetamines (meth), opiates, cocaine/crack, and PCP.

“Four in five arrestees were positive for at least one substance in 2019,” said SANDAG Director of Research and Program Management Dr. Cynthia Burke. “While the population of individuals booked into our facilities has changed over time, these statistics are sobering, and indicate the continued need to address underlying risks and the need to stop the revolving door of incarceration.”

Meth proved to be the drug of choice for those booked into local detention facilities in 2019. Of those surveyed, 66% of females and 55% of males tested positive for meth. On average, the meth-using arrestee reported using for an average of 15 years, used before their 22nd birthday, and used more than 19 days in a row over the last 30 days.

Other notable report findings include:

• Around one in three (36%) arrestees tested positive for multiple drugs
• One in five arrestees (18%) have experienced being approached to carry drugs across the border
• Most surveyed reported multiple arrests in the past (83%)
• Of those interviewed, 33% committed a crime to support their drug habit
• 21% carried a gun when they committed a crime and three-fourths of all of those interviewed said it was easy to obtain one
• 35% have been diagnosed with a mental health disorder
• 65% reported ever being homeless

Since 2000, SANDAG, through its Substance Abuse Monitoring program, has conducted interviews in local detention facilities. Subjects are interviewed within 48 hours of their arrest and asked in an anonymous and confidential interview about their substance use history and other risky behaviors. A urine sample collection is required as a part of the interview.

• View the complete CJ Bulletin: 2019 Adult Arrestee Drug Use in the San Diego Region.

• View the SANDAG CJ Flash, a two-page summary of the CJ Bulletin highlighting interview findings.

See supplemental methamphetamine (meth) use addendum regarding the drug of choice for San Diego County arrestees.

Project Manager(s)

For media inquiries, please contact the SANDAG Public Information Office at (619) 699-1950 or pio@sandag.org.