2021 Methamphetamine Use by San Diego County Arrestees

Criminal Justice Research & Clearinghouse  /  Substance Abuse Monitoring  /  2021 Methamphetamine Use by San Diego County Arrestees
Data from the SANDAG Substance Abuse Monitoring program
November 2022  |  Research findings from the Criminal Justice Clearinghouse


Interviews with adult and juvenile arrestees regarding drug use and other risky behavior have been conducted by SANDAG since 1987. As part of this effort, all arrestees who are randomly selected to participate in the Substance Abuse Monitoring (SAM) program and report methamphetamine (meth) use in the past 30 days are asked to answer additional questions (i.e., the meth addendum). The meth addendum was added to the research protocol 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 2021, the percent of adult males positive for meth was 58%, which was a slight increase from 2020 (57%). For adult females, the percent positive decreased from 53% to 44%. The proportion of juveniles positive for meth decreased by more than fifty percent (3%) from 2020 (8%), however, this drastic change may be an effect of the smaller sample size that was used in 2021.
The percentage of juveniles who tested positive for meth in 2021 (3%) is a 22-year low. A similar trend of decline was seen in the percentage of adult females who tested positive for meth. However, the percentage of adult males who tested positive for meth in 2021 (58%) is a 22-year high.

Availability of Meth

A 5-year comparison shows that a lower percentage of arrestees in 2021, compared to 2017, said that the quality of meth was worse this year; more said the price was lower; and around the same percent said it was more available (just under half) .

Location of Meth Purchase

Most arrestees reported buying meth in either the Central, South Suburban, or East Suburban major statistical areas of the County in 2021.

Demand for Meth

According to arrestees who engaged in distribution, 48% said the demand had increased in 2021 compared to the previous year.
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Study background
This SANDAG CJ Brief, 2021 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 Juvenile Hall has considerably decreased in recent years, additional youth were interviewed at the San Diego Achievement Centers. In 2021, 227 male arrestees were interviewed at the Central Jail and 80 female arrestees at Las Colinas. Of these 307 arrestees, 305 (99%) completed the interview and provided a valid urine sample for analysis. Within this sample, 135 (44%) reported having used meth in the past 30 days, including 111 (82%) males and 24 (18%) females.
Of the 55 juveniles interviewed at Juvenile Hall and San Diego Achievement Centers, 2 (4%) reported meth use in the past 30 days and both completed the addendum. These two youth included 1 boy and 1 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 https://www.sandag.org/data-and-research/criminal-justice-and-public-safety/evaluation-services/drugs.
Recommended Citation
San Diego Association of Governments (2022). 2021 Methamphetamine Use by San Diego County Arrestees.
San Diego, CA: Author.