San Diego no longer ‘Meth Capital of the World’

SAN DIEGO (KUSI) – For the first time in a long time, San Diego County has encouraging news about methamphetamine. For starters, San Diego is no longer the unofficial “Meth Capital of the World.” KUSI's David Davis shows us how far San Diego has come.

It is arguably the most addictive drug on the planet. Teenagers party with it. College students study with it. Young women lose weight with it. And so-called 'supermoms' do it all with it.

Methamphetamine is now the number one drug of choice among people entering state-funded treatment programs in California, surpassing alcohol and heroin abuse. And it often leads to prison time, or worse.

“Meth use makes addicts commit the unthinkable,” says County Supervisor Dianne Jacob. “It's a highly addictive stimulant with highly dangerous consequences.”

But San Diego County has come a long way from the likes of Shawn Nelson, the Army vet and unemployed plumber, and known meth addict, who stole a tank from the National Guard armory in 1995. And Cameron Taylor, who, also on meth, hijacked a city bus at knifepoint in 1997, leading police on a 70-mile chase.

“While there has been significant progress made, even in the last five years, thanks to the work of the Meth Strike Force and all of its many partners,” says Nick Macchione of County Health and Human Services, “we still must be vigilant about this serious problem.”

The numbers are encouraging. Over the past five years San Diego meth use has declined. Meth deaths are down 43 percent. Meth treatment admissions are down 17 percent. The number of arrests due to meth sales and possession is down 53 percent. And meth lab seizures dropped 39 percent.

“I broke into houses, I broke into businesses, I stole cars, I sold drugs,” says former meth addict Christina Manis, “and basically anything else I could tie into making money to support that habit.”

Christina used drugs as an early teen, and became a full blown meth addict by the age of 18. But during her last trip to jail, she had her moment of clarity. She now has a real job and wants to pay it forward by sharing her message.

“Life is better on the other side,” she says. “Things get better. In your addiction you feel very hopeless and helpless. Things are much greener on the other side of the fence. It feels a lot better when I wake up in the morning and when I go to sleep at night.”

Besides the human element, meth also exacts a financial toll. A single meth addict can cost county taxpayers up to $2,000 per month in prison time and rehab.

People with a meth addiction, or who suspect drug activity in their community, are encouraged to call the meth hotline at 1-877-NO2METH (662-6384).

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