HBO Documentary 'Meth Storm' Explores Drug's Scourge In Rural Arkansas

Nov 28, 2017
Originally published on November 27, 2017 3:00 pm

The new documentary “Meth Storm” shows how a potent form of meth and a lack of economic opportunity are devastating a rural Arkansas community. The film premieres Monday night on HBO.

Here & Now‘s Jeremy Hobson talks with filmmakers Brent and Craig Renaud.

Interview Highlights

On the magnitude of the meth crisis in rural Arkansas

Craig Renaud: “I think the film is as much about poverty in the state as it is about meth addiction. And you have this perfect storm of these large amounts of methamphetamine coming in, at the same time that you have a loss of job opportunities and not a lot of things going on in these communities. And you hear the [Drug Enforcement Administration] in the film talk about, back in the days of meth labs, they would be surprised if they saw a pound at a time, and now they’re seeing 40- to 50-pound shipments a week coming into Arkansas. So the problem has gotten very overwhelming in these communities.”


On how job losses have contributed to the crisis

Brent Renaud: “There’s really been a perfect storm of things that have happened in this area and made it difficult to get jobs. And what we’re looking at now is a situation in which the kids in this film, you hear the sheriff say, ‘I don’t think they had a choice to do anything but get involved with the drug trade.’ We’ve got kids who are now becoming teenagers, they’ve never known anyone who’s had a job, never known anyone who’s gone to college. What do we expect of these kids when we’re not giving them any other opportunities?”

On why people don’t stop using meth, even after realizing how bad it is

CR: “I think Teddy in the film, [Veronica’s] son, is a perfect example of this. We watched Teddy come out of jail three different times over the course of making this film, and even after doing 90-day treatment programs, coming out very sincerely wanting to stop … but we would watch him go back to these communities where everybody that he knows in that community is either using or dealing. You watch him go through sincere attempts to get a job to try to get his life back together for his kids. And then slowly the pressures of that environment, family members on [meth] and everybody else on it, and not being able to get a consistent job, and I think eventually he just gives in. And I think that’s indicative of the problem for a lot of people that just can’t get off the drugs.”

BR: “It’s the forgotten America, and we’ve seen it in other places like inner-city Chicago as well, where there really are very few job opportunities, the educational opportunities are not very good. Your role models are involved in the drug industry, and you get a record at a very young age, and once you’ve got that record, it dogs you for life.”

On connections between the meth crisis and the opioid addiction crisis

CR: “I think there’s definitely a connection in terms of the way the United States is being flooded with these drugs. We watched the DEA for two years in Arkansas really struggling with keeping up with the mass amounts that are coming in, and you do these massive operations to take down one network and they’re immediately replaced by other people who are willing to step up and deal the drugs. And so I think that’s a big problem that you’re having with the opioid crisis and the methamphetamine crisis.”

On what might end the cycle, and their goal in making the film

BR: “I think education and jobs in these failing economies could help quite a bit in terms of giving an incentive to do something different. You hear Daniel, Veronica’s son, in the film talk about if he had a regular job, he would stop. And so I think that could help quite a bit.”

CR: “Our goal … there’s so much in the larger culture around us in social media, so much judgment, and so much analysis and so much throwing dirt on everyone. And I think that our work is really a reaction against that. We’re trying to present stories from the subject’s point of view, very experiential stories, so that when people start having opinions about police officers or low-level drug addicts or even rural people in general, we’re hoping to give a little bit of context to those discussions.”

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