06.23.2023 | News Release

New SANDAG Report Finds Meth Most Commonly Used Drug Among Adult Arrestees

More than half of all adult arrestees tested positive for methamphetamine (meth), according to a new SANDAG report, CJ Bulletin: 2022 Adult Arrestee Drug Use in the San Diego Region. The positive rate of meth use in 2022 was 55% for female arrestees and 52% for males. 

The new report also found that 77% of males and 75% of females surveyed tested positive for at least one illicit substance, a drop from the 22-year high in 2021 for males but a sharp increase from the second-lowest rate in 2021 for females.

“An important characteristic of this report is looking at the underlying factors and needs these arrestees have that can help prevent rearrests,” said SANDAG Principal Criminal Justice Researcher Octavio Rodriguez. “Continuing efforts to gather information on mental health issues, housing status, and employment is crucial to further understand how these may impact one’s likelihood to struggle with substance use.”  

In addition to using illicit drugs, 49% of arrestees reported they had abused prescription drugs, particularly tranquilizers and fentanyl. While fentanyl use has continued to increase over the years, 86% of arrestees said they would not purchase it and 35% said they used a drug that they believed contained fentanyl without knowing it.

Other notable findings in the SANDAG report include: 

  • 40% of those arrested reported that they have been diagnosed with a mental health disorder.
  • 65% of arrestees have experienced homelessness.
  • 29% of arrestees said they had committed a crime to support their drug use.

Since 2000, SANDAG has conducted interviews in local detention facilities through its Substance Abuse Monitoring program. The program helps identify drug use trends among adult and juvenile offender populations to help inform prevention strategies for the San Diego region.  

For this analysis, 208 male arrestees were interviewed at the Vista and Central Jails and 97 female arrestees at Las Colinas. 

View the complete CJ Bulletin: 2022 Adult Arrestee Drug Use in the San Diego Region

View the CJ Flash: Mental Health Issues Among San Diego Arrestees

View the aggregate data

To view other crime data, visit the SANDAG Open Data Portal