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Meth use at 15-year high among female arrestees

Substance abuse continues to be associated with criminal activity in San Diego County – with around two-thirds of adults arrested found under the influence of at least one illicit drug, and about one in three arrested while on multiple drugs, according to figures released today by SANDAG’s Criminal Justice Research Division.

This year, the data reveal a notable trend: Increasing meth use by women.

Among jailed offenders, women barely outpaced men in terms of overall drug use — but the percentage of female meth users exceeds males significantly.

These figures – contained in two reports titled 2014 Adult Arrestee Drug Use in the San Diego Region and Methamphetamine Use by San Diego County Arrestees – show that 53 percent of female offenders had meth in their systems, compared to 40 percent of men.

For women, the percentage of meth users jumped 7 percent in one year, reaching a 15-year high.

Since 2000, the first year the current study began, the percentage of female arrestees testing positive for meth increased from 29 percent to 53 percent. In that same period the percentage of males who were meth-positive increased from 28 percent to 40 percent.

That percentage of male users is still near its 15-year peak of 44 percent, which was documented in 2005, according to researchers.

On average, the adult arrestees reported they had been using meth for 16 years. When they used, they used it five days in a row. Twenty-five percent had injected it at some point, and 49 percent reported using it before going to work or school.

Of the 746 adult arrestees participating in the 2014 Substance Abuse Monitoring program, 492 (66%) were male and 254 (34%) were female. Around one in three (35%) were booked with a drug offense as the highest charge. In addition, 24 percent were booked for “other” offenses, 23 percent for a violent crime, and 18 percent for a property crime.

Researchers also found that:

- Marijuana use was down for both genders — but the 2014 rate for males (45% positive) was still the second highest since 2000.
- The percentage of arrestees positive for opiates increased for the fourth consecutive year.
- Binge alcohol drinking was reported by the majority of arrestees, particularly males, who were more likely to report having five or more drinks in the 24 hours before their arrest.
- Sixty percent of arrestees reported they have been homeless at some point, 58 percent were currently unemployed, and 29 percent have a mental health diagnosis.

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