Photo via Pixabay
Photo via Pixabay

Illegal drug use among men in San Diego County jails was at a 16-year high last year, with more than three-quarters of the inmates testing positive, according to a report released Wednesday by the San Diego Association of Governments.

The annual substance abuse monitoring report released by the SANDAG Criminal Justice Research Division showed that 76 percent of male inmates tested positive for an illegal drug in 2015 — 8 percent higher than in 2014.

The report also showed more men were using methamphetamine and marijuana, with meth use jumping 8 percent — to 48 percent — between 2014 and 2015. Men who were arrested tested positive for marijuana at a 52 percent rate in 2015, marking a 7 percent increase over 2014, according to the report. One- fourth of the men arrested in 2015 admitted to having obtained a medical marijuana card.

“Substance abuse among the jail population has consequences for society as a whole as these individuals are more prone to risky behaviors, such as driving under the influence, sharing needles, committing property crimes to support their habits and going to work under the influence of drugs, which can put others at risk,” SANDAG Criminal Justice Research Director Cynthia Burke said.

Meth use among women who were arrested in 2015 went down slightly to 52 percent from the previous year, but was still at a higher rate than men.

The typical meth user takes the drug five times a day, seven days in a row, and has been using 14 years on average, according to the report. Of the meth users who go to school or have a job, 60 percent of them reported that they have gone there high.

In 2015, 469 male arrestees were interviewed at the Vista and Central jails, while 172 women arrestees at the Las Colinas detention facility participated.

When asked what drug they were under the influence of, the most common was meth at 70 percent, followed by heroin at 31 percent, then marijuana at 23 percent.

Historically, a majority of those arrested and booked into jail test positive for drugs. Drug use is often related to other underlying issues, such as unemployment, homelessness and psychiatric disorders, the report said.

—City News Service