Drug Epidemic in Rural America Examined in METH STORM on HBO, 11/27
Today, 90% of the methamphetamine consumed in America comes over the border from Mexico in the form of a superdrug called ICE. As drug enforcement agents battle sophisticated cartels, poor, rural users, dealers and familiesare caught in the middle.
Featuring extensive access to law enforcement, METH STORM tells the story of rural, economically-disadvantaged users and dealers whose addiction to ICE and lack of job opportunities have landed them in an endless cycle of poverty and incarceration, and follows police and DEA agents struggling to stop the cartels. DebutingTHURSDAY, NOV. 27 (10:00-11:40 p.m. ET/PT), this timely presentation is both a cautionary tale and a high-stakes drama told from inside the war on drugs.
Drawing on a decade of experience as war correspondents, directors Brent and Craig Renaud (HBO's "Dope Sick Love" and "Little Rock Central: 50 Years Later") embedded themselves deep in the American drug culture over the course of two years to film this disturbing look at methamphetamine addiction. METH STORM focuses on an impoverished rural Arkansas community where abuse is rampant, thanks to a plentiful supply of cheap and potent imported crystal meth and a depressed economy that offers little incentive to kick the habit.
According to Veronica, an addict and mother of three grown children, two of whom are also addicts, nine out of ten houses in her neighborhood struggle with the same issues. Veronica has been arrested frequently over the years and welcomes her son, Teddy, home from his own stint in jail, celebrating by shooting up meth.<
Soft-spoken and compassionate DEA agent Johnny Sowell is one of the leaders of Operation ICE Storm, as well as mayor of Shirley, Ark. Conducting a tour of the town's once-thriving main street, now marked by crumbling buildings and boarded-up businesses, he laments the lack of jobs that has been a major factor in the cycle of addiction, with many people dealing to support their habits.
METH STORM follows Sowell and his team on large-scale raids, in which scores of suspected meth dealers and users are arrested - including members of families he grew up with. The goal is to turn poor white dealers against rich and powerful Mexican cartels. But even after tailing and capturing a suspected smuggler in a dramatic car chase captured on film, Sowell is painfully aware that a conviction won't mean much, because it won't be long before cartel kingpins send a replacement to Arkansas with more shipments of ICE.
Over the course of METH STORM, Veronica's husband contracts psoriasis of the liver and dies, and Teddy gets clean (after finding what she calls "jailhouse religion"), only to relapse and return to jail, breaking not just her heart, but that of Teddy's seven-year-old daughter. A brighter future seems unlikely, if not impossible, for this community.
"The ICE age ain't going away," admits Veronica, adding that at least in this depressed region, the trend is for "more addicts every day."
METH STORM is produced, directed, filmed and edited by Brent and Craig Renaud; associate producer, Stephen Bailey; original music, Amman Abbasi. For HBO: senior producer, Sara Bernstein; executive producer, Sheila Nevins.