Meth addicts keeping county’s supply high

Two years into a federal program to stop the bleed of methamphetamine onto U.S. streets, the stimulant’s supply continues to hemorrhage into San Mateo County and feed a steady population of Peninsula addicts, according to local authorities on the front lines of addiction.

The federal Combat Methamphetamine Epidemic Act of 2005, which was signed into law on March 9, 2006, aimed to regulate over-the-counter sales of ephedrine, pseudoephedrine and phenylpropanolamine, which are found in many cold, cough and allergy medications and are necessary ingredients to make the powerful stimulant.

“We’ve definitely seen a shift since the law went into effect,” DEA Special Agent Casey McEnry said. “We have disrupted the supply.”

But in San Mateo County, addiction treatment professionals, police officers, prosecutors and addicts themselves say the supply is still plentiful.

“Even if meth is being manufactured elsewhere, it’s still making its way here, because we still have a steady clientele of users,” San Mateo County Deputy District Attorney Karen Guidotti said.

Among clients in San Mateo County treatment centers during fiscal year 2006-07, approximately 46 percent identified methamphetamine as their primary problem, according to county health department data.

Brian Rabbitt was a 28-year-old technology manager when he began using methamphetamine. Two years later, he had lost everything to the drug, had filed for bankruptcy and was close to homelessness.

Today, Rabbitt, 32, has been sober two years and runs his own demolition company thanks to a long-term outpatient program at the Bridges rehab center in Redwood City. But when he thinks back to the days of scoring the drug in San Mateo County, he is struck by how easy it was to purchase the drug and says he isn’t surprised the problem persists.

“It’s as easy as buying cigarettes,” he said.

Lt. Mark Wyss, commander of the San Mateo County Narcotics Task Force, acknowledged that methamphetamine remains a real problem, but where the federal law seems to be making a dent is in raising the drug’s street price.

Less than two years ago, Weiss said, an ounce of methamphetamine sold for $650 to $1,000 in the county. Today, the same amount is worth $1,200 to $1,400.

While it’s unknown if the rising cost will result in a decrease in users, finding treatment for addiction is becoming more difficult. The proposed state cuts to Proposition 36, which voters passed in 2000 to offer nonviolent drug offenders treatment instead of jail, will slash $700,000 in publicly funded rehabilitation for San Mateo County residents, said Judy Davila, manager of drug and alcohol services for the county’s health department.

Janine Smith, executive director of Pyramid Alternatives, said the cuts in funding are already affecting her drug treatment clients. Beginning June 1, she said, the number of monthly counseling sessions will be reduced by half.

tbarak@sfexaminer.com

Bay Area NewsLocal

Just Posted

Pregnant women are in the high-risk category currently prioritized for booster shots in San Francisco. (Unai Huizi/Shutterstock)
What pregnant women need to know about COVID and booster shots

Inoculations for immunosuppressed individuals are recommended in the second trimester

Examiner reporter Ben Schneider drives an Arcimoto Fun Utility Vehicle along Beach Street in Fisherman’s Wharf on Tuesday, Oct. 19, 2021. (Kevin N. Hume/The Examiner)
Could San Francisco’s tiny tourist cruisers become the cars of the future?

‘Fun Utility Vehicles’ have arrived in The City

The Science Hall at the City College of San Francisco Ocean campus is pictured on Jan. 14. The Democrats’ Build Back Better bill would enable free community college nationwide, but CCSF is already tuition-free for all San Francisco residents. (Kevin N. Hume/The Examiner)
What Biden’s Build Back Better bill would mean for San Franciscans

Not much compared to other places — because The City already provides several key features

A directional sign at Google in Mountain View, Calif., on Oct. 20, 2020. Workers at Google and Amazon are demanding their companies pull out of Project Nimbus, a $1.2 billion contract to provide cloud services for the Israeli military and government. (Laura Morton/The New York Times)
Google and Amazon employees criticize $1.2 billion cloud services contract with Israel

‘We can create a world in which tech companies can thrive without doing harm’

Most Read