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San Diego County’s Meth Problem Not Going Away

Photo caption:  The methamphetamine weighed 12.87 pounds and is worth $128,700 according to ...

Photo credit: US Border Patrol

The methamphetamine weighed 12.87 pounds and is worth $128,700 according to the US Border Patrol, May 30, 2014.

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2014 Meth Strike Force Report Card

2014 Meth Strike Force Report Card

The 2014 Meth Strike Force report card outlines the human costs of meth use in San Diego County.

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Meth Hotline

1-877-NO-2-METH

If you think the methamphetamine problem in San Diego County is a thing of the past, a new Meth Strike Force report card says otherwise.

In the 1990s, the county was dubbed the "meth capital of the world" for its many meth-making labs. Now, San Diego County is on the receiving end, as methamphetamine is smuggled into the U.S. from manufacturing labs in Mexico. U.S. Customs and Border Protection said last year 63 percent of all the meth seized at U.S. ports of entry was confiscated.

The report card also outlines the human costs of meth use in the region. Past arrests of smugglers and users, and more drug-related deaths. The numbers have been steadily climbing over the past five years.

"If you look at this last year, we've had the highest amount seized, and that was 14,732 pounds of meth," San Diego County Undersheriff Ed Prendergast told KPBS Midday Edition on Tuesday. "That's a lot of meth. Over the last five years, the amount seized has gone up significantly each year."

Prendergast said the increase in seizures is tied to officers using better technology to find the meth. It's also because of the number of users in the U.S. and the low cost of the drug, he said.

"The demand is there in the United States and the supply is there in Mexico," Prendergast said. "Meth right now is cheaper than it has been in years. You can buy a pound of meth for as low $3,500. It's historically low. Cocaine would be between $12,000 and $13,000."

John Richardson, vice president of the nonprofit treatment provider Mental Health Systems, said meth affects all sorts of people.

"It's across all demographics. It affects the young. It affects the old. We're finding that more and more are coming in for their meth treatment," Richardson said.

By The Numbers

The Meth Strike Force compiled data from various sources in San Diego County relating to methamphetamine.

• 267 meth-related deaths in 2013, according to data from the San Diego County Medical Examiner's Office. That's up by 23 percent from 2012 and up 93 percent from 2009.

• 6,658 people were arrested in the county for meth sales and possession in 2013, according to Automated Regional Justice Information System. That's up 28 percent over 2012 and up 62 percent from 2009.

• About one-third of people in drug treatment facilities in San Diego County cite methamphetamine at their primary drug of choice, according to San Diego County Emergency Medical Services. That number has held steady over the last five years of the report.

• 43 percent of adults arrested have meth in their system at the time of their booking. The number is 10 percent for juveniles arrested, according to San Diego Association of Governments. That number has steadily climbed since 2009 when the number was 27 percent of adults and 6 percent of juveniles.

• The number of meth lab seizures has steadily declined over the last five years of the report, from 6 in 2009 to 0 in 2013, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

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