Health

Meth Deaths Up Dramatically In County

Methamphetamine is taking a heavy toll on San Diegans, killing a near-record 217 people in the region in 2012, a newly released report shows.

From 2008 to 2012, the number of people in the region who died because of meth increased by 55 percent (from 140 in 2008 to 217 in 2012), according to the most recent Methamphetamine Strike Force Report Card.   

The Report Card tracks nine indicators of the meth problem in the region. The latest report card shows some setbacks and some successes. Overall, meth continues to be a problem in San Diego County.

More than 60 percent of meth deaths (133) in 2012 involved people between 40 and 60 years of age. The percentage of meth deaths in this age bracket was almost identical to the figure in 2008. The 10-year age bracket with the greatest number of meth deaths (69) was 50 to 59 years of age. And 13 deaths (or 6 percent) were to people older than 60.

“Make no mistake. Meth is death.
-Dianne Jacob, Board of Supervisors Chairwoman

“While San Diego County is no longer the meth capital of the world, people’s lives are still being turned upside down because of this deadly and addictive drug,” said County Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Dianne Jacob, who led the effort to create the Meth Strike Force in 1996. “Make no mistake. Meth is death. The number of meth deaths reported in 2012 was the second highest since the Meth Strike Force began tracking deaths in 1995.”

The highest number came in 2005, when 245 deaths were attributed to methamphetamine.The latest Meth Report Card shows a mix of positive and negative trends, and some indicators that have remained relatively stable. When comparing data from 2008 to 2012, the report revealed the following due to meth:

  • Number of emergency room discharges increased (65 percent)
  • Treatment admissions dropped (16 percent)
  • Percentage of adults arrested who tested positive for meth rose (from 24 to 36 percent)
  • Percentage of juveniles arrested who tested positive for meth dropped (from 10 to 4 percent)
  • Number of arrests because of meth—sales and possession—up (56 percent)
  • Meth cleanups and seizures dropped (42 and 20 percent, respectively)
  • Children saved from drug-infested environments rose (107 percent) 

“The District Attorney’s Office is committed to the ongoing fight against meth abuse, including the prosecution of drug dealers who are pushing meth in our neighborhoods,” DA Bonnie Dumanis said. “At the same time, it’s critical that we support drug treatment and drug courts, which hold people accountable but at the same time give them the tools they need to become clean, law abiding, productive members of our community.”

A meth user can be anyone—teens, parents, college students, men and women. According to the 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, about 14.8 million Americans age 12 or older reported using meth at least once during their lifetimes. 133,000 of those used meth for the first time in 2012. Locally, meth continues to be the number one drug of choice among adults entering County-funded treatment programs.

“About one third of adults coming into our treatment centers walk in addicted to meth,” said Nick Macchione, director of the County Health and Human Services Agency, adding that treatment services are offered as part of the County’s Live Well San Diego initiative. “We are here to help you or a loved one. We can help you kick your addiction and lead you on the path to recovery. Drug treatment is available.”

“About one third of adults coming into our treatment centers walk in addicted to meth
-Nick Macchione, director of County Health and Human Services Agency

Nine years ago, Eric Davis was given a choice: get clean or go to prison for selling meth. Davis, now 39, went into Mental Health Systems, Inc., a County-funded treatment center.

“The illusion of being happy and feeling wonderful came solely from meth,” said Davis, who started using meth when he was 12 with an older group of neighborhood kids in Chula Vista.

His life spiraled out of control because of meth. Tired of his addiction, his mother threw him out. He was homeless for two years and arrested 18 or 19 times. (Read Davis’ full story here.) He’s been clean since his last arrest and is now a drug counselor for the same treatment provider that helped Davis turned his life around.

“When I entered treatment, I had no sense of self and no idea how to live a normal life,” said Davis. “I felt such an appreciation and so much gratitude for what my counselor did for me and for what I was able to accomplish that I wanted to provide the same thing for someone else.”

If you suffer from a meth addiction or suspect drug activity in your community, call the Meth Hotline at 1-877-no2meth (662-6384). Drug treatment resources are available.

Meth crime can also be reported online at www.no2meth.org. The calls and reports are completely confidential.

José A. Álvarez is a communications specialist with the County of San Diego Communications Office. Contact