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Meth use rebounding in S.D. County

A new SANDAG study found that methamphetamine use among at-risk groups in San Diego County has risen back to levels not seen since 2006, a trend that’s consistent with other countywide indicators that show increased number of deaths and emergency room admissions associated with meth use.

The study revealed that 47 percent of women and 31 percent of men who get arrested tested positive for meth in 2012, compared to 39 percent and 26 percent, respectively, in 2011. The positive rate among juveniles remains the same – at 4 percent. After marijuana, meth has consistently ranked as the second most commonly used illicit drug among arrestees.

The results of the SANDAG study, released on October 28, mirror trends seen throughout the region. According to the county Medical Examiner’s Office, the number of unintentional deaths associated with meth use jumped 16 percent between 2011 and 2012 (from 122 to 142), and meth-related emergency room admissions went up by nearly 13 percent between 2010 and 2011 ( from3,412 to 3,846). Overall, 32 percent of local substance abuse treatment admissions in 2012 involved meth as the primary drug of choice.

“Despite exemplary, collaborative efforts such as the Methamphetamine Strike Force, meth use remains a chronic problem in our region. While some progress has been made, law enforcement agencies, emergency rooms, and public drug treatment programs continue to have to pour valuable resources into tackling the problem,” SANDAG Director of Criminal Justice Research Dr. Cynthia Burke said.

“Meth use is often an underlying factor in family violence, child abuse and neglect, work problems, and high-risk behaviors, such as driving under the influence.”

The study, “Methamphetamine Use by Adult and Juvenile Arrestees in 2012,” found that meth users were more likely to drive a car while under the influence, compared to those who used other drugs. In addition, more than half of them reported going to work under the influence of the drug over the past year.

The typical adult meth-using arrestee has been using the drug for about 13 years on average – usually smoking it, but sometimes snorting or injecting it about three times a day, five days in a row. Negative effects associated with meth use include hallucinations, violent behavior, paranoia, sleeplessness, weight loss, dental and skin problems, and legal, financial, and family troubles.

Those who suspect a loved one is using meth and needs help are urged to call
the San Diego County Access and Crisis line, 1-888-724-7240. Members of the public who want to report meth-related criminal activities should call 1-877-NO-2-METH.

The SANDAG study is based on 2012 data gathered as part of the San Diego Substance Abuse Monitoring (SAM) program. A total 235 adults and 11 juveniles answered questions that pertain to how they obtain and use meth, their involvement in distribution, the effect it has on their lives, and their participation in treatment services.


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For media inquiries, please contact the SANDAG Public Information Office at (619) 699-1950 or