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San Diego Meth-Related Deaths Up 55 Percent Since 2008

Aired 2/5/14 on KPBS News.

San Diego might not be the "meth capital of the country," but it's still the top entry point from Mexico for the drug.

Deaths due to methamphetamine have risen more than 55 percent in San Diego since 2008, according to the county’s Meth Strike Force.

Arrests for meth possession and sale are also up, along with the percentage of adult arrestees who test positive for meth and the number of meth users who end up in emergency rooms.

On the other hand, meth labs have nearly been eradicated in San Diego County, authorities say, and the percentage of juvenile arrestees who test positive for meth are down from 10 percent in 2008 to 4 percent in 2012.

The mixed results are part of San Diego County’s 2013 Meth Report Card. County Supervisor Dianne Jacob started the Meth Strike Force, which produces the report, in 1996.

“The statistics are very disturbing,” Jacob said.

The proliferation of meth labs and meth users here in the 1990s earned San Diego the dubious title of “meth capital of the country.” Stricter laws made it harder to get the ingredients to make methamphetamine, so production moved south of the border.

Now, San Diego is the country’s top entry point for Mexican meth.

“San Diego may no longer be the meth capital, but meth continues to take its deadly toll,” Jacob said.

Authorities attributed 217 deaths to methamphetamine use in 2012, up from 140 in 2008. Preliminary figures show that meth-related deaths rose even higher in 2013, according to Dr. Jonathan Lucas, deputy chief medical examiner for San Diego County.

New forms of meth are showing up in the county as producers and smugglers look for ways to avert law enforcement, authorities say.

Last November, a 16-year-old Mexican boy died after drinking liquid methamphetamine at the San Ysidro Port of Entry. Drug-sniffing dogs can’t detect liquid meth.

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