The study says that in 2014, heroin and opiates were involved in 13 percent of drug arrests among males and 15 percent among females. It adds that the San Diego County medical examiner notes heroin continues to be the drug most frequently involved in unintentional deaths since 2005. According to the study, the examiner's office says that heroin is the most common drug/medication in individuals between 20 and 39 years of age. The study also says that 25 percent of treatment admissions countywide were for heroin as the primary drug of choice, up from 19 percent in 2009.
Since 2002, heroin use in the United States has risen along with heroin-related deaths. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the rate of past-year heroin use jumped 63 percent, from 1.6 per 1,000 persons age 12 and older in 2002 to 2.6 in 2012, while the number of heroin-related deaths quadrupled, from .7 to 2.7 deaths per 100,000.
The SANDAG study looks at soon-to-be released local Substance Abuse Monitoring data in relation to the individuals who were interviewed (646 who were not positive for opiates and 100 who were). It found that, while there was no significant difference in opiate-positive rates by age, there was a difference by ethnicity, with 20 percent of white arrestees testing positive compared with 9 percent of Hispanics and 6 percent of blacks. For gender, while the difference in positive rates was not significant, females reported using heroin significantly more days per month on average than males (15.3 versus 8.7).
More than eight in ten (83 percent) of those persons positive for opiates were also positive for methamphetamines, compared with 55 percent of those not positive for opiates. About half (46 percent) of arrestees positive for opiates were also positive for marijuana, and 4 percent were positive for cocaine.
Arrestees who tested positive for opiates were more likely to report ever having been homeless (73 percent versus 58 percent) and were also more likely to report being unemployed and looking for work (69 percent versus 56 percent).
More than six in ten (63 percent) of those who said they had used heroin reported injecting it; and of these, 81 percent said they had injected in the past year. About four in ten (43 percent) of those positive for opiates who reported injecting also reported that they shared their needles.
Those positive for opiates were more likely to report they had a mental health diagnosis for some type of disorder (39 percent versus 28 percent) and also that they had previously thought about taking their own lives (43 percent versus 25 percent). Some 24 percent of those positive for opiates said they had been approached to transport drugs across the border from Mexico, compared with 13 percent of those who weren’t positive.