Half of Women Booked Into Jail Have Meth in System: SANDAG

Substance abuse reports show a notable trend for San Diego County: more women are using methamphetamine.

According to the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG), 53 percent of women booked into jail in 2014 had meth in their systems, compared to 40 percent of men.

Last year, female meth users jumped 7 percent — a 15-year high. In 2005, the percentage of male users reached its 15-year peak of 44 percent, researchers say.

Arrestees on average reported using meth for 16 years, according to SANDAG, and they take it five days in a row when they use. Twenty-five percent reported injecting it at some point, while 49 percent said they’ve used it before going to school or work.

Steven Walter, the head of the San Diego District Attorney's narcotics unit, told NBC 7 in his experience, most meth users he has dealt with are solely focused on getting high, not attending classes or work.

He did say that meth use in the county is prevalent.

"It's always something that has been a constant," said Walter. "I don't know what motivates people to use it. I don't know if it's the high, but locally it's one of the most popular drugs, if not the most popular drugs, aside from marijuana."

Last year, California voters approved Prop 47, which makes possession of meth a misdemeanor, not a felony. Walter said it is still too early to tell if the proposition will have an impact on the drug's use locally.

The source has also shifted since the mid-90s, when meth labs provided the drug to the majority of users.

"Mexico is definitely the source of most of the meth that we're seeing," Walter said. "San Diego is pretty much a gateway city to methamphetamine. It comes across the border, goes to LA, it's not unusual to see it go up the coast to the northwest, to Chicago. We are definitely a source city if you will, of methamphetamine."

In general, about two-thirds of adults arrested had at least one illegal drug in their systems last year; one-third was on multiple drugs.

Marijuana use was down for both genders, though the men’s 2014 rate of 45 percent was still the second highest since 2000, officials report.

The majority of arrestees reported binge alcohol drinking. Sixty percent of arrestees reported being homeless at some point, 58 percent were unemployed and 29 percent had a mental health diagnosis.

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