Meth still the No.1 drug in San Diego

Nick Kanios

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It’s been over 10 years since Shawn Nelson stole a tank across the street from Mesa College at the National Guard armory and went on a rampage that ended with his death. Reports indicate that Nelson had Methamphetamine in his system when he was killed by law enforcement.

At the time, San Diego was referred to as the “Meth capital of the world,” and plenty of other high profile cases have involved Meth use since then. In 1995 Ivan and Veronica Gonzales were convicted of scalding their 4-year-old niece to death, both were Meth addicts. It was said that when Cameron Taylor hijacked a bus at knifepoint in 1997 he was in the middle of a Meth-induced psychosis. And of course, Kristin Rossum, who was convicted of murdering her husband in 2002 on the UCSD campus, was addicted to Meth.

Though San Diego is no longer the “Meth Mecca” of the United States (Phoenix now holds that title), Meth use is still a major local issue.

“It’s the top drug problem in San Diego,” said a San Diego Police Dept. narcotics detective. The detective wished to keep his name secret because of ongoing investigations. “I don’t see any solutions. As long as there is a demand, there will be a supply.”

According to the San Diego County Methamphetamine Strike Force, most Methamphetamine in San Diego County is manufactured, or “cooked” in small, clandestine laboratories. These labs may be set up in homes, garages, storage units, apartments, motel rooms, even the trunk of a car. Meth is also smuggled in from Mexico.

People most at risk to become Meth users are people of lower socio-economic class, according to the narcotics detective. He also says a very small percentage of Meth users are college students.

“Most Meth users don’t have a job,” the detective said. “Meth is very strongly addictive. If you are on Meth you won’t be a student because it totally consumes your life.”

Though there is no evidence Meth is physically addictive, research shows it has a very strong mental addiction.

Lt. Jack Doherty, the head of campus police at Mesa College, does not believe there is a Meth problem on campus.

“The top crimes on campus are stolen cars and vehicles being broken into,” Doherty said. “Occasionally we get some drug use, but not a lot of it.”

Doherety, who has been working at Mesa for seven years in September, said he has never seen or heard of a case of Meth use on campus.

“Occasionally we have found Meth users in the park (near campus) but it hasn’t been related to Mesa.” Doherty said campus police checks the park in order to keep student’s cars that are parked there safe. “Sometimes we find people doing things they shouldn’t.”

Judy Stamm, a professor in health and physical education, has had admitted Meth users in her classes.

“Every case is different,” Stamm said. “But Meth is popular because it is easy to get and it isn’t expsensive.”

According to Stamm anyone can make Meth themselves.

“You can go online and learn to cook a recipe yourself,” she said. “But the people I’ve talked to got it from Mexico.”

Doherty admits there could be a problem that the campus police isn’t finding.

“It’s what you see,” Doherty said. “If there is something there, we don’t see it. I’m sure there are folks deeply involved in the drug culture, but we believe people come here to learn.”

Last year Stamm had a student that was on Meth who ended up switching to heroine.

“That was a very rare case,” Stamm said. “Last I heard he had been in rehab, is trying to get his life together and is back in school.”

Meth has a very high dependency which makes it difficult to quit according to Stamm.

“Generally 18 to 22-year-olds think they can kick it no problem,” Stamm said. “But it doesn’t work that way. It’s a progressive destruction with a fast dependency.”

The narcotic detective said there is a profile for Meth users.

“We call them tweakers,” he said. “We can spot them in the street and say ‘Oh there’s a Meth user.’ Typically they don’t look after themselves and they are generally very skinny. ”

Stamm encourages anyone on Meth to get help anyway they can.

“You shouldn’t be worried about being busted, ” Stamm said. “You should be trying to help yourself. If you are here at Mesa you are trying to better your life, and no matter what you think or anyone tells you, these drugs won’t help you.”

“Part of the solution is education,” the detective said.

Stamm agrees the more information people get about the truths of Meth the better.

“I’m glad the word is getting out about this problem,” Stamm said.

Health services are available to any student. Students may walk-in or call for an appointment before hand. Health Services are completely confidential. There is also a local chapter of Crystal Meth Anonymous in San Diego, and can be reached at their Web site

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Meth still the No.1 drug in San Diego