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New Report: Big Jump in Drug Use Among Males Arrested, Booked into Local Jail

Methamphetamine Use Highest In 16 Years

San Diego County CA— Approximately three-quarters of adult males (76%) arrested and booked into local jail in San Diego County tested positive for an illicit substance in 2015 – 8 percent higher than in 2014 and the highest level seen in the past 16 years, according to an annual substance abuse monitoring report released by the SANDAG Criminal Justice Research Division.

The report found that an increasing percentage of males were using methamphetamine and marijuana:

  • The percentage of males testing positive for meth jumped from 40 percent to 48 percent between 2014 and 2015, also a 16-year high.
  • Fifty-two percent of male arrestees tested positive for marijuana in 2015 – a 7 percent increase from 2014 and a 16-year high. About one in four (24%) arrestees reported ever obtaining a medical marijuana card.

As a companion to the annual substance abuse monitoring report, SANDAG also released a brief titled Methamphetamine Use by San Diego County Arrestees. Data included in the brief show that while meth use went down slightly among female arrestees, it still remains higher than the positive rate among male arrestees (52% vs. 48%). The typical meth user takes the drug five times a day, seven days in a row, and has been using 14 years on average. Sixty percent of meth users who go to school or have a job reported that they have gone there high.

“Substance abuse among the jail population has consequences for society as a whole as these individuals are more prone to risky behaviors, such as driving under the influence, sharing needles, committing property crimes to support their habits, and going to work under the influence of drugs, which can put others at risk,” SANDAG Criminal Justice Research Director Dr. Cynthia Burke said.

About one in three (35%) male arrestees reported they commit crime to support a drug habit. This percentage was even higher (51 percent) among those who said they had previously been convicted of a felony. Of those who admitted to doing so, 90 percent said they committed property crime. When asked what drug they were under the influence of, the most common was meth (70%), followed by heroin (31%), and marijuana (23%).

Historically, a majority of those arrested and booked into jail test positive for drugs. Drug use is often related to other underlying issues, such as unemployment, homelessness, and psychiatric disorders.

SANDAG researchers expanded the scope of their research in this most recent substance abuse monitoring report and asked study participants a series of new questions, including whether they have been victims of crime, if they have ever tried committing suicide, and whether they are aware of Proposition 47 – a ballot measure approved by California voters in 2014 that reduced certain property and drug-related felonies to misdemeanors.

More than half (57%) of the arrestees said they had heard of Prop. 47. Of those who were aware of it, 29 percent said that they or their attorney had petitioned to have a prior offense reduced.

As part of the substance abuse monitoring study, arrestees are approached (using a random sampling method) within 48 hours of their arrest and booking into jail. If the arrestee is available and willing to participate in a confidential survey/interview, she/he is asked a series of questions related to her/his drug use history and to provide a urine sample for drug testing. In 2015, 469 male arrestees were interviewed at the Vista and Central Jails and 172 female arrestees at Las Colinas. Of these 641 arrestees, 617 completed the interview and also provided a valid urine sample for analysis