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San Diego: Two-thirds of county arrestees are drug users, study indicates
UNION-TRIBUNE, August 24, 2006

More than two-thirds of adults arrested in San Diego County last year tested positive for drugs, with marijuana the most widely used followed closely by methamphetamine, authorities announced yesterday.

A study conducted by the San Diego Association of Governments found that in 2005, 68 percent of men and 75 percent of women who were arrested had marijuana, cocaine, opiates/heroin, PCP or methamphetamine in their systems.

The study also found one of three arrestees used prescription drugs illegally and that one of five women and one of four men had more than one drug in their systems.

The most common combination was marijuana and methamphetamine.

The report also found:

Four of every five arrestees in San Diego County said they had tried marijuana and nearly 50 percent said they had used it within 30 days before their arrest. About one-third had the drug in their systems when they were apprehended.

Methamphetamine use increased more than any other drug in the last six years, with the highest increase among arrestees over 40. Almost two of three arrestees in the county said they had tried meth, and about half reported using it within 30 days of their arrest.

Cocaine in powder form is more commonly used than cocaine in rock or crack form, with men being more likely to have used powder cocaine and women more likely to have used crack.

About one in five arrestees said they had tried heroin, and 4 percent had used it within 30 days of being arrested.

People who had abused prescription drugs were more likely to also use other drugs.

The study, done by SANDAG's Criminal Justice Division, also found teenagers who started using drugs or alcohol at an early age were likely to continue using during their lives. Early drug experimentation was linked to low education levels and mental health problems.

The data, collected through a program called “SAM,” or Substance Abuse Monitoring, provide law enforcement agencies and drug prevention and treatment programs an in-depth look at drug use. The data can be used when agencies apply for federal grants.

The information was culled from interviews with 808 arrestees randomly selected twice a month. Of those, 772 of gave urine samples.