Public Safety

Conference Combats Meth, Prescription Drugs

The list of crimes is horrific:

·         A young newlywed from La Jolla convicted of poisoning her husband and spreading rose petals to make it seem like a scene out of American Beauty

·         A man commandeered a military tank and drove it down a neighborhood street in Clairemont

·         A man hijacked a Metro transit bus and took it for a joy ride around the county

·         A couple from South County who drown their niece in a bathtub of scalding water

What was the common denominator in all four cases? Methamphetamine.

It was the early- to mid-‘90’s and San Diego County had the dubious distinction of being the “Meth Capital”. East County was the hot spot in the region for meth labs and activities.

“From the cookers who were blowing up their kitchens, to the dealers who were terrorizing our streets, to the users losing their jobs and families, to the victims who were harmed by the secondary impacts of that drug…it was time to stop that insanity.” said County Supervisor Dianne Jacob, who led the creation of the County’s Meth Strike Force.

The creation of the strike force in 1996 was the antidote, according to Jacob.

“The genius of the strike force is it brings together all agencies that deal with the effects of this drug,” she said.

The strike force partnered with the Prescription Drug Abuse Task Force to put on a conference today to address prescription, meth and emerging drugs and the growing problem of drug abuse in San Diego County. The estimated 500 people in attendance were there to learn about current drug trends, prevention and treatment strategies dealing with prescription drug abuse, meth and other issues at the community level.

 “Our progress is clear,” said Jacob. “We used to have 70 meth labs (shut down) in a year in our region.

“Last year there were three.”

Jacob also cited the statistic that half of all adults entering county-funded treatment centers used to report using meth as their drug of choice. Now, that number is one-third.

“It’s better, but not where we want it to be,” she said. “The problem might not be quite as visible, but meth is still the single largest illicit drug in the drug treatment system.”

County Supervisor Pam Slater-Price helped form the Prescription Drug Abuse Task Force in 2008 to combat the newest emerging threat of painkillers and prescription medication.

“At that time, the majority of overdose drug deaths were associated with the misuse of painkillers, such as OxyContin,” Slater-Price said to the group in a letter. “These drugs are particularly dangerous, because many people have them in their home medicine cabinets, and believe these drugs are safe.”

The keynote speaker for the conference was Nicholas Reuter, senior public health analyst at the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment. He addressed current trends and effective strategies for addressing prescription drugs, meth and emerging drugs such as spice and bath salts.

Workshop sessions were held on topics such as school and community partnerships, engaging youth as partners in solutions, and prescription drug abuse from a doctor’s perspective.

Tom Christensen is a communications specialist with the County of San Diego Communications Office. Contact