The San Diego County Meth Strike Force delivered its annual report card Friday at the County Administration Building.
On hand were a who's who of local law enforcement, including San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan; the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of California Robert Brewer; Anned Maricich, the acting Director of Field Operations for U.S. Customs and Border Protection; San Diego Police Capt. Bernie Colon; and San Diego Undersheriff Mike Barnett; as well as San Diego County Supervisor Dianne Jacob.
"On the street, meth is called the devil's drug, and as the results of our 2020 Meth Strike Force Report card show, the name is well deserved," said Nick Macchione, the director of the San Diego Health and Human Services Agency, who kicked off the news conference.
Macchione went on to state that the strike force did not have good news to report.
"The first and most-disturbing finding is that 546 … meth-related deaths happened in 2019, the last year for which we had full data," Macchione said. "Those deaths are a 76% increase from 2015. We have a problem."
That's a huge increase from 2018, when 483 deaths were meth-related. This year's numbers are shocking but one fact may be even more surprising: 51% of those deaths were not young adults. Rather, they were people between the ages of 45 and 64.
Macchione praised the outgoing Supervisor Jacob for her foresight in identifying the county's problem decades ago, back when San Diego was the so-called Meth Capital of the World, a designation that, fortunately, no longer applies to the county.
"There's absolutely no question about it: Meth means Death," Jacob said at what was possibly her last news conference, having termed out in her elected role. "Unfortunately, the news today is not good…. There's no sugar-coating it: Meth's destroying lives and families at a record pace here in San Diego County."
Jacob said the deaths caused by meth were unnecessary and avoidable.
"While we made major inroads, we don't know what it would have been like if we did not have the Meth Strike Force and this multi-faceted agency at all levels of government working together. I would predict it would have been a lot worse."
The Meth Strike Force has made record seizures in recent weeks, interdicting thousands of pounds of the drug coming in from Mexico. Also very concerning to local officials is the fact that, due to our proximity to the border, methamphetamine is extremely cheap and readily available in San Diego. Adding to the urgency of the strike force's mission: Meth is now being laced with fentanyl.
The strike force said that there are red flags to look for when someone is using meth, including rapid weight loss, changes in complexion and aggressive behavior
Officials said that, with the pandemic, they expect 2020's death toll to be even higher.