2022 Methamphetamine Use by San Diego County Arrestees

Criminal Justice Research & Clearinghouse  /  Substance Abuse Monitoring  /  2022 Methamphetamine Use by San Diego County Arrestees
Data from the SANDAG Substance Abuse Monitoring program
September 2023 | Research findings from the Criminal Justice Clearinghouse


Since 1987, SANDAG has conducted interviews with randomly selected adult and juvenile arrestees regarding drug use and other risky behavior as part of the Substance Abuse Monitoring (SAM) program. Among other topics, participants in the survey are specifically asked about the use of methamphetamine (meth) and various additional questions as part of an addendum. The addendum was added to the original survey instrument because meth has consistently been one of the most commonly used illicit drugs by arrestees in San Diego County and because of the risk the drug poses to the user, children in the household, and the community in general. This SANDAG CJ Brief summarizes what these individuals shared during their interview, including some quotes they provided at the conclusion of the conversation.
Meth Use In 2022, almost three out of five (59%) adult females and 63% of adult males had reported ever trying meth. Additionally, over one in five (21%) of juveniles reported ever trying it, a 3% increase from last year.
An important component of the SAM project is voluntary drug testing. As shown below, the percentage of adult males who tested positive for meth decreased from 58% in 2021 to 52% in 2022. On the contrary, the percentage of adult females who tested positive in 2022 (55%) represents an 11% increase from the previous year (44%) and notes a return toward pre-pandemic levels. [1]

Availability of Meth

Forty-one percent (41%) of arrestees in 2022 reported that meth was more available than the previous year and two in five (40%) reported that the price was lower. Moreover, almost half (49%) noted that the quality of meth was worse, a statistic that has stayed consistent with previous years.

Location of Meth Purchase

In 2022, most arrestees reported buying meth in either the central, east suburban, or south suburban major statistical areas of the county.

Demand for Meth

According to arrestees who engaged in distribution in the past 12 months (28%), one-third (33%) said the demand had increased in 2022 compared to the previous year. However, the majority stated that demand stayed the same (60%). Thirty-six percent (36%) of those employed or who were a student reported using meth before going to work or school. The most common job types reported by these arrestees were construction, food service, and mechanics.
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Study background
This SANDAG CJ Brief, 2022 Methamphetamine Use by San Diego County Arrestees, is part of a series of reports highlighting findings from data collected as part of the SAM program. As part of this program, adult and juvenile arrestees are approached within 48 hours of their arrest (and booking) to participate in an interview regarding their drug use and other recent behaviors. Additionally, because the number of youths booked into East Mesa Juvenile Detention Facility has considerably decreased in recent years, additional youth were interviewed at the San Diego Achievement Centers. In 2022, 208 male arrestees were interviewed at Central Jail or Vista Detention Facility and 97 female arrestees at Las Colinas Detention Facility. Of these 305 arrestees, 300 (98%) completed the interview and provided a valid urine sample for analysis. Within this sample, 112 (37%) reported having used meth in the past 30 days, including 75 (67%) males and 37 (33%) females.
Of the 56 juveniles interviewed at East Mesa Juvenile Detention Facility and San Diego Achievement Centers, two (4%) reported meth use in the past 30 days and both completed the addendum. These two youth included one boy and one girl.
This effort would not be possible without the cooperation of the San Diego County Sheriff’s and Probation Departments, and the funding support of the Southwest Border High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA), County of San Diego, and SANDAG member agencies. To learn more about the SAM program and to access other current reports, as well as aggregate data from the meth addendum, please visit this page.
Recommended Citation
San Diego Association of Governments (2023). 2022 Methamphetamine Use by San Diego County Arrestees. San Diego, CA: Author.

  1. Due to COVID-19 protocols and a shift in intake procedures at the East Mesa Detention Facility, it became unfeasible to conduct drug testing for juveniles in 2022. Thus, juvenile positive meth rate data were excluded from the Twenty-Three Year Meth Positive Rates graph.