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San Diego: Addicted To Meth

June 27, 2016 1:24 p.m.

San Diego: Addicted To Meth


Kenny Goldberg, health reporter, KPBS

Related Story: San Diego: Addicted To Meth


This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

This is KPBS Midday Edition. Maureen Cavanaugh. San Diego cannot shake it addition to methamphetamine. In 19 San Diego cannot shake it addition to methamphetamine. In 1980s Vidino was known as the meth capital of the world. The problem has actually gotten worse. The drug kills more San Diegans than ever and its impacts in hospital emergency rooms and crimes are at all-time highs. In the first episode of our three-part series on meth, KPBS Kenny Goldberg takes a look at how it is sending more residents to the hospital and the more. 

Methamphetamine is dangerous. If you want proof, go to the county more. 262 San Diego and start from meth related causes in 2014. That is more than the people who died from the flu and homicides combined that year. 

The last couple years have actually been records. We have seen more methamphetamine related deaths in the last couple years that we have ever seen in the last 20 years. Dr. Jonathan Lucas is San Diego counties deputy medical examiner. He says meth is killing people of all ages. 

In 2015 our youngest meth related death was a 17-year-old girl the jumped out of a second story window while intoxicated with methamphetamine. Eldest was a 70-year-old man that heart disease. He was intoxicated with methamphetamine. 

Lucas explains meth can make underlying health conditions even worse. People with heart problems who use meth are at higher risk of dying from heart attack or stroke. He points out the high number of meth related deaths do not tell the whole story. 

The people come to this office a really just the tip of the iceberg, a small piece of the pie of the methamphetamine problem. 

And bigger piece of the pie is found in local hospital emergency rooms. In 2011 there were 3000 

And bigger piece of the pie is found in local hospital emergency rooms. In 2011 there were 3700 ER visits for meth related problems. That number jumped to more than 10,000 in 2014. Dr. Donyell Douglas works in the busiest ER in La Mesa. She says the situation is getting out of hand. 

Any Dr. that says they haven't been frustrated probably would not be telling the truth. At the end of the shift when IMB down and it is another meth addict and you want to say what the hell is going on here. 

What's going on is the method is being sold on the Street is extremely potent and highly addictive. Combine that with the fact that long-term meth use alters the brain and can cause severe mood swings, violent behavior, and solutions, not to mention overdose and death. What is the attraction? The high is incredible says Tom Freese. 

When it goes inside the brain it stimulates the release of dopamine, the feel-good chemical inside the brain that is unparalleled. There is no other way from either natural or chemically induced phenomenon to reach that peak of dopamine. 

Tom Freese is the director of training for the integrated substance abuse program. He has helped governments all over the world set up drug treatment systems. He says methamphetamine also affects the serotonin system, and other emotional regulator in the brain. He says meth alters inhibitory control. 

The ability to say I want to do that but I'm not going to do that in to put the brakes on a particular activity. That seems to be damaged as well as part of the overall prefrontal cortex or the from part of the brain that helps us make good decisions from bad decisions. 

José Escobedo started smoking meth when he was 11. Later on he snorted it. He says the best height was when he injected it. 

Shooting of drugs was like bouncing up and down. It gave me 10 times more than what smoking day. It was a new experience. It was the new thing that took over my life. 

He was addicted to meth for more than 20 years. At his peak he shot up six times a day. 

It was like one after another after another. It wasn't to get high, it was just the habit. I wanted to see it going into my veins. I felt like I was chasing the first high. 

Welcome, Kenny Goldberg. What prompted you to do the series on meth? 

Every year or so the county hold a press conference where they talk about the latest methamphetamine report card. It is put together by the methamphetamine strikeforce. I was noticing that there were hundreds of deaths. There was widespread affects on crime. It was like ho-hum. The next day forget about it and methamphetamine is not the news very much. I came to find out that it is an absolutely devastating drug. It is permissions and has wide spread affects at San Diego. Affects the methamphetamine continue to mount. 

What makes meth such a dangerous drug? 

It is very powerful. It is very potent. It is highly addictive. In the first episode of our series we talked to a guy at UCLA who talks about producing such high levels of dopamine, the pleasure seeking chemical in the brain, that surpass any other form of human activity that they know of or any other drug. It is better than sex and better than whatever strikes your fancy. Methamphetamine sense the dopamine level II the moon and people get hit into that feeling. 

Another person that we heard from in your report talked about doing math over and over in the course of a day. Is it cheap? Can people afford to do this? 

Yes, it is cheap. It is cheaper than ever now. It is more powerful than ever. It is an absolute perfect recipe. 

As you pointed out in the introduction to the series, San Diego has had a long history with methamphetamine. Remind us about the days when San Diego was called meth capital of the world. 

San Diego got that moniker in the mid-80s when a lot of the methamphetamine was made in makeshift labs in backyard labs and labs in trailers and many of them in each County and all over the county. That is when the precursor chemicals to make methamphetamine were more widely available. People could go into a drugstore and by dozens of packs of Sudafed and melted down and make methamphetamine out of it. That is no longer available since we have had loss the make precursor chemicals illegal. Back then that is when San Diego got the named the meth capital of the world. He came to discover that things are even worse now. It doesn't have that title anymore at the methamphetamine situation is even worse than it is in the 80s and 90s. 

How and where is methamphetamine produced now? 

It is largely produced in Mexican super labs controlled by the drug cartels. It is highly potent. They are selling it for dirt cheap. It is very powerful. It is like making bad. If you have seen that show, they have it down to a science. They make it in the factories that look like a Costco with Fort Bliss and big giant containers of it. It is mass-produce. It is no longer a makeshift backyard thing. It is a factory artifact now. 

It is an industry. Who are some of the people we will hear from as your series progresses? 

In the episode tomorrow we talked to Laura Duffy he was the U. S. attorney here in San Diego. We will talk to a person at sandbag who spells out the percentage of arrestees in San Diego County jails. I think it is 40% of men and 53% of women. Be the people arrested in jail and test positive for methamphetamine. We will also take listeners and viewers down to the border where we see the meth is coming in across the border. Even though meth seizures our way up at the border crossings, somehow the meth is still getting and. 

Are we making any progress in the fight against meth in San Diego? 

Seizures have doubled at the border over the last year. In that respect, we are. A lot of law enforcement agencies is involved in the fight against meth. We really making progress? You'd have to ask them about that. It is like the war on drugs. If it ever over? Did we ever really make progress? I'd have to say with that many addicts and such a pernicious effect on crime and death and emergency room visits, I'd have to say no. 

I have been speaking with KPBS reporter Kenny Goldberg. We will be talking about the subjects raised in his reports here on KPBS midday in addition. Thank you. 

Thank you.