Drug Use and Abuse in San Diego County, California: June 2013

Karla D. Wagner, Ph.D.

Summary of Key Findings for the 2012 Reporting Period:

  • Overall stability in all drugs and all indicators.
  • However, there was a gradual upward trend for heroin that differentiated it from other drugs.


Methamphetamine indicators were largely stable for the second year, after declines observed since 2005. The number of primary methamphetamine admissions was fairly stable at 3,990 in 2012 compared with 3,968 in 2011. The proportion of primary methamphetamine admissions was 29 percent for the past 3 years; in 2012, methamphetamine accounted for 28 percent of all treatment admissions. A notable exception to the overall stability in methamphetamine indicators is in the proportion of arrestees testing positive for methamphetamine in 2012. Among adult male arrestees, 31 percent tested positive for methamphet­amine, an increase of 5 percentage points from 2011. Among female arrestees, 47 percent tested positive, an 8-percentage-point increase from 2011. Among juve­nile arrestees, prevalence was stable at 4 percent for the second year in a row. The number of overdose deaths involving amphetamine (including methamphetamine) was fairly stable at 116 in 2012, at compared with 119 in 2011, and the rate remained fairly stable at 3.7 per 100,000. Methamphetamine ranked first among reports from drug items seized and ana­lyzed in the National Forensic Laboratory Information System (NFLIS) laboratories; 39 percent of reports from the NFLIS laboratories tested positive for methamphetamine in 2012. Meth­amphetamine street prices were mostly stable.


Marijuana indicators were largely stable, with the exception of small changes among arrestees and a decrease in the proportion of NFLIS reports. Primary marijuana treatment admissions were sta­ble as a proportion of total treatment admissions (with 18.9 percent in 2012 compared with 18.4 percent in 2011). Marijuana ranked second in NFLIS data, representing 18 percent of reports—a decrease from 29 percent in 2011. Prevalence among adult male arrestees increased from 39 percent in 2011 to 42 percent in 2012, while prevalence decreased among juveniles, from 51 percent in 2011 to 47 percent in 2012.


Cocaine indicators also remained stable at low levels in 2012. Primary treatment admissions for cocaine/crack were stable in both number (558 in 2012 compared with 577 in 2011) and proportion (4 percent in both 2012 and 2011). Prevalence among male adult arrestees was slightly higher (8 percent in 2012 compared with 6 percent in 2011), while prevalence among female adult arrestees was slightly lower (5 percent in 2012 compared with 7 percent in 2011). Prevalence among juvenile arrestees was just 1-percentage-point lower in 2012 compared with 2011. Cocaine ranked third among reports from drug items analyzed in NFLIS laboratories; 11 percent of primary, secondary, and tertiary reports contained cocaine. Street prices remained stable.


Heroin indicators were generally stable from 2011, but unlike other drugs, a very gradual upward trend has been observed over the longer term. The number of primary treatment admissions increased from 3,019 in 2011 to 3,328 in 2012. The proportion of total primary treatment admissions increased by only 1 percentage point, to 23 percent in 2012. The number of overdose deaths decreased slightly, from 118 to 114, although the rate remained relatively stable at 3.6 per 100,000 (compared with 3.8 per 100,000 in 2011). Preva­lence of heroin/opioid positive test results among adult arrestees was 10 percent for males and 12 percent females, representing small increases from 2011 (9 percent among both males and females). Among juvenile arrestees, 3 percent tested positive in 2012 compared with 2 percent in 2011. Heroin ranked fourth among reports from drug items seized and analyzed by NFLIS laboratories, with 10 percent of primary, secondary, and tertiary reports testing positive for heroin.

Prescription Opioids

Drug treatment admissions data suggested abuse of prescription opioids was also stable, though a 1-percentage-point increase in the proportion of primary treatment admissions has been observed over the long term (with 4.6 percent in 2012 compared with 3.4 percent of primary treatment admissions in 2006).

For inquiries regarding this report, contact Karla D. Wagner, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, School of Medicine, University of California San Diego, MC 0507, 9500 Gilman Drive, La Jolla, CA 92093, Phone: 619–543–0857, Fax: 858–534–7566, E-mail: kdwagner@ucsd.edu.