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Methamphetamine Epidemic: California

California Methamphetamine Epidemic Map

According to recent reports, methamphetamine is quickly becoming the most abused drug in the state of California. Between 2009 and 2014, methamphetamine confiscations in the state spiked 300 percent. Nearly 15,000 pounds of meth were seized by the San Diego Drug Enforcement Agency in 2014, which made up more than 60 percent of all meth confiscated in the U.S. that year.  Law enforcement officials report that the cost of methamphetamines was between $8,000 to $10,000 per pound in 2008, but the price plunged to $3,500 by 2015.

The availability of meth in the Central Valley reportedly rivals the access found in big metropolitan cities such as San Diego, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. Mexican drug cartels ensure that meth is highly available in this area, and utilize the I-5 freeway as a line of transportation and circulation throughout the state. Just last year, five individuals in Fresno were charged with drug trafficking. Over 30 pounds of meth were seized along with firearms, and the group was found to have ties to Mexican cartels. Meth-related incidents are also seen in Northern California, such as in Sonoma County. This past July, three men were arrested in connection with an international drug scheme. Officials reported finding 560 pounds, a stash estimated to be worth $200 million.

There is also a long history of methamphetamine abuse and addiction in Southern California due to the large volume of traffic in that area and its proximity to the Mexican border. This makes the region a prime location for drug deals and smugglers buying and selling illegal substances, including meth. It is well-known that Mexican drug cartels have been steadily increasing the production and distribution of meth. This became evident when seizures of methamphetamine quadrupled at the border as well as at the San Diego airport between 2009 and 2014, leaping from 3,963 to 14,732 pounds. In 2017, U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials seized triple the amount of meth they captured in 2012, at 54,400 pounds.

Methamphetamine abuse lead to a record number of deaths in San Diego County last year, according to a recent government study. A total of 377 deaths were linked to meth in 2016, averaging one death every 23 hours, as reported by the San Diego County Methamphetamine Strike Force. Furthermore, there was an increase in emergency room visits, the number of people admitted to treatment programs, and arrests due to methamphetamine. Just this past summer, a man was arrested at a U.S. Border Patrol checkpoint south of San Clemente for smuggling $162,000 worth of meth across the Mexican border. District Attorney Summer Stephan is one of few officials offering treatment for meth abusers, and asserts that “sending addicts to jail or prison without addressing their addiction problems does not solve the drug problem” in the San Diego community.