Heroin has been consumed in San Diego for the past 10 years, despite the fact that this area isn't really a significant market for the narcotic.
SANDAG, and their Criminal Justice Research Division, published a study where they show that consumption of heroin has doubled, from 5% in 2002 to 10% in 2012. This is specifically referring to an increase in Heroin, Morphine and other opiates among adult men who were sent to prison and then put through drug tests. Among the female population in prison, the consumption increased from 6% to 12% in the last ten years, slightly higher than among males.
The director of the Criminal Justice Research Division, Cynthia Burke, explained that “The drug use trends we see in the jail population are typically a good harbinger of what will happen in the general population. Our findings are consistent with other countywide statistics on the rise of heroin seizures, drug treatment admissions, and deaths due to heroin overdose. So it’s critical to monitor and address this issue through a comprehensive strategy,” Burke said.
What has led to this increase?
The study shows that this increase in heroin consumption is likely tied to the increase in prescription painkiller abuse. “From interviews with people in jail we learned that heroin is often used as a substitute for prescription opiates because it’s relatively cheap and easy to obtain”
Over a fourth of those who have tasted heroin confirmed that they had used similar legal substances before trying heroin, and almost 63% of the people interviewed said that their use of heroin started as a substitute to opiates their doctors gave them as a prescription, because it's cheaper and easier to obtain.
The same study also revealed that alcohol is the substance with the highest abuse rate, followed closely by tobacco, which although being a legal substance, it is still harmful. The most interesting statistic was that nearly two thirds of the prison population that consumed tobacco had a larger possibility of testing positive for Marijuana, Methamphetamine and Opiates, in contrast to those that didn't use tobacco.
As part of the SANDAG study, 586 men at the Vista and San Diego Central Jails and 293 women at Las Colinas Women’s Detention Facility were selected to be interviewed about their drug use history.