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Drug use is at a 22-year high among men arrested in the San Diego region but at the second lowest for females, a San Diego Association of Governments report found. 

In 2021, 83 percent of male and 60 percent of female arrestees tested positive for at least one illicit drug substance. Although the drug use rate for men came in at a 22-year high, it was the lowest rate for women in 14 years.  

The report was compiled from data collected from the San Diego County Substance Abuse Monitoring (SAM) program. The findings are based on random sampling from detainees within 48 hours of their arrest at the San Diego Central Jail and Las Colinas Detention Facility last year. 

With fewer individuals booked into jail during the pandemic, the sample decreased in size, from 487 in 2017 to 305 in 2021.

Methamphetamine was the second most common drug in detainees despite regional efforts to deter the substance. The report found that 58 percent of males and 44 percent of females tested positive for the drug. 

According to SANDAG, the female rate was the second consecutive decrease and represented the lowest positive test rate since 2011. The report found that 62 percent of detainees found it “very easy” to obtain meth in 2021, compared to 51 percent in 2017. 

“It is important to note that COVID-19 played a significant role in data collection,” said SANDAG Senior Director of Data Science Dr. Cynthia Burke. “Booking policies were modified because of the pandemic, which impacted how people were booked and who was available to be interviewed. However, regardless the majority were positive for at least one substance, indicating the extent of need of the justice-involved population.”

The report found that 42 percent of males tested positive for multiple drugs and 25 percent of females in 2021. Of those testing positive for multiple drugs, 83 percent tested positive for two, 16 percent for three, and 2 percent for four drugs.

Of those who tested positive for multiple substances, 92 percent were positive for meth, 92 percent for marijuana, 18 percent for opiates, 13 percent for cocaine/crack, and 3 percent for PCP. 

SANDAG’s report outlined underlying factors that may shed light on the risk for detainees to recidivate, which includes prior arrests and incarcerations, community supervision, involvement in drug distribition, crimes to support drug use, and exploitation, among several other factors. 

Click here to view the full SANDAG report. 

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