Arrestee drug use study shows increases in methamphetamine use

Adult male and female arrestees testing positive for methamphetamine increased slightly in 2009 after several years of steady declines, according to two recent SANDAG reports.

“Overall, arrestee drug use remained fairly stable over the last year – and was relatively low compared with years passed,” SANDAG Director of Criminal Justice Research Dr. Cynthia Burke said. “However, data collected in 2009 do raise some concerns when it comes to methamphetamine use and availability.”

Positive methamphetimine tests among adult arrestees hit a peak in 2005, when 51 percent of females and 44 percent of males participating in the annual SANDAG study had the drug in their systems after they were taken into custody. Those numbers dropped dramatically over three years, down to 31 percent of females and 20 percent of males in 2008. But they increased in 2009, with 38 percent of females testing postive and 22 percent of males.

Overall, the report showed a slight drop in adult male arrestee drug use, with 56 percent testing positive for at least one drug when arrested, down from 57 percent in 2008. Sixty-five percent of female arrestees tested positive for at least one drug, up from 58 percent the previous year.

The SANDAG Criminal Justice Research Division detailed the findings in its 2009 Adult Arrestee Drug Use in the San Diego Region report released in September. As part of the study, 766 women and men were interviewed at the Central, Vista, and Las Colinas jails and were tested for marijuana, methamphetamine, cocaine, heroin, and PCP.

On Tuesday, SANDAG released a follow-up study – Methamphetamine Use by Adult and Juvenile Arrestees in 2009. The data were gathered by asking follow-up questions to arrestees who participated in the intial study (and a similar study on juveniles also done earlier this year). Those who reported using methamphetamine in the previous 30 days were asked additional questions. In 2009, 172 adult and six juvenile arrestees responded to the methamphetamine adendum.

Several indicators in the study raised concerns regarding methamphetamine. Only 50 percent said that the quality of meth was dropping – down from 56 percent in 2008 and 69 percent in 2007. Sixty-seven percent reported that the price of the drug was rising – down from 76 percent last year. And 33 percent said methamphetamine was harder to get than last year, down from 35 percent in 2008 and 45 percent in 2007.

In addition, 34 percent of individuals admitted to local substance abuse treatment facilities reported meth as their primary drug of choice in 2009, making it more common than alcohol, marijuana, cocaine, or heroin, according to statistics from the County of San Diego.

See attached for the complete reports, or visit:


The San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) is the San Diego region’s primary public planning, transportation, and research agency, providing the public forum for regional policy decisions about growth, transportation planning and construction, environmental management, housing, open space, energy, public safety, and binational topics. SANDAG is governed by a Board of Directors composed of mayors, council members, and supervisors from each of the region’s 18 cities and the county government.


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