To the dismay of San Diego County officials, methamphetamine is making a comeback among local drug users eager for a quick high and drug sellers looking for big profits.
In the mid-1980s, the county earned the unofficial title of the nation's meth capital. In 1985, an official with the Drug Enforcement Administration told the Associated Press that San Diego "is to crystal meth what Bogota, Colombia, is to cocaine -- the capital, the center."
Several reasons were suggested: proximity to Mexico, presence of biker gangs, and sprawling rural areas where meth labs could operate undetected.
The numbers fluctuated year to year but by late in the last decade, officials were cautiously optimistic that the meth wave was being reversed, through education, vigorous enforcement and additional treatment programs for addicts.
Now meth use is again increasing among users and sellers.
County political and public health officials this week announced a slew of depressing statistics:
--The number of deaths attributed to methamphetamine has increased 55% from 2008 to 2012. In 2012, 217 people died due to meth, second only to the 245 deaths in 2005.
--Arrests for meth sales and possession are up 56% from 2008 to 2012.
--The percentage of adults who test positive for meth after being arrested rose to 36% in 2012 from 24% in 2008.
"Make no mistake," said Dianne Jacob, chairwoman of the Board of Supervisors. "Meth is death."
The day after the statistics were released, the U.S. attorney announced that 45 people linked to six street gangs have been indicted for methamphetamine trafficking and other charges. Raids were made at eight locations.
In 2008, 144 cases of methamphetamine drug crimes were prosecuted in federal courts in San Diego and Imperial counties, officials said. In 2013, the number was 910.
"We will not allow our neighborhoods to become headquarters for drug-pushing, gun-toting gangsters," said U.S. Atty. Laura Duffy.
And on Friday, San Diego County sheriff's deputies arrested 17 persons in a drug raid on a home in El Cajon where a variety of drugs were seized.
Among the possible charges for some of the 17: supplying methamphetamine to transients living in a riverbed in nearby Santee in exchange for stolen property.