The color and texture of meth can vary; most commonly it is usually white or slightly yellow in a crystal-like powder or rock-like chunks. Photo courtesy of

A record number of San Diegans died last year from using meth, according to an annual report released by the San Diego County Methamphetamine Strike Force.

The 2018 death total was 483 people. That’s 106 more deaths than the number reported in 2016 when a then-record 377 meth fatalities were reported.

Other key findings from the 2019 Meth Report Card, released Dec. 9, include:

  • There were 12,926 emergency room visits due to meth in 2017 compared to 13,209 in 2016. Data from 2018 won’t be available until 2020.
  • A total of 6,906 people were admitted to County-funded treatment programs due to meth abuse last year vs. 4,911 in 2017. The rise is believed to be the result of Drug Medi-Cal, which went into effect in July 2018 and increased access to treatment facilities throughout San Diego County.
  • 57 percent of adult arrestees tested positive for meth in 2018, compared to 56 percent the previous year.
  • 10 percent of juvenile arrestees tested positive for meth in 2018, compared to 11 percent in 2017.
  • Meth arrests for selling and possession of meth increased to 10,156 in 2018 vs. 9,293 the year before.

“Meth abuse is not a new problem, but these latest figures from the Meth Strike Force Report Card are deeply disturbing and should raise alarm among all of us,” said Chairwoman Dianne Jacob, County Board of Supervisors. “These tragic deaths are unnecessary and avoidable.”

According to the Medical Examiner’s Office, the number of deaths might be even higher. Of the more than 22,000 deaths each year in San Diego County, only about 3,000 of them require an investigation —which leaves open the possibility that some deaths due to meth abuse go unseen.

According to the County of San Diego, most of the meth in the county is manufactured and smuggled across the border by Mexican cartels. Additionally, the highly addictive and deadly drug is more potent and cheaper than ever.

Seizures of the drug at US-Mexico ports of entry increased 40% in 2018, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration. More than half the meth seized along the border last year was in the San Diego corridor.

People who are experiencing a drug addiction or who want to anonymously report meth or drug activity are urged to call the Meth Hotline at (877) NO-2-METH or go to

Treatment resources are available by calling the county’s Access and Crisis Line at (888) 724-7240 or 2-1-1.

“There is help available,” said Nick Macchione, director of the county Health and Human Services Agency. “Treatment saves lives.”

— Staff report

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