HBO Doc 'Meth Storm' Delves Inside Rural America's Ice Problem

By Victoria Kim 11/27/17

The HBO documentary explores how ice has infiltrated “9 out of 10” households in one rural Arkansas community.

Still from "Meth Storm"
Still from "Meth Storm" Photo via YouTube

Crystal meth is as potent and available as ever; in some communities, the potent stimulant competes with heroin.

Reports from Indiana to West Virginia claim that massive quantities of crystal meth, also known as “ice,” are coming up over the border from Mexico. Authorities say the cheap and potent import has replaced homemade meth, trapping people in a vicious cycle of poverty and drug abuse.

Meth Storm, a new HBO documentary that debuts Monday, November 27, explores how ice has infiltrated “nine out of 10” households in one rural Arkansas community, and follows local law enforcement’s efforts to cope with this influx. 

Directed and produced by brothers Brent and Craig Renaud, the documentary follows the community for two years, capturing the hopelessness that ice brings. 

One woman, Veronica, shoots up with her son Teddy to welcome him home from jail. Veronica and two of her three children, including Teddy, use meth. Veronica doesn’t see much hope for her community, where nine out of ten houses are affected by drug abuse, she says. 

The community is caught in a cycle that’s exacerbated by its struggling economy. There aren’t a lot of jobs to go around, which has led some people to deal drugs to support themselves, and to buy meth. The town’s main street was once lined with businesses, the filmmakers note, but the area has become run-down. Many businesses have closed.

This shortage of job opportunities fuels the cycle of hopelessness, drugs, and poverty. Veronica says there are “more addicts everyday.” She doesn’t believe it’s going to get better. “The ice age isn’t going away.”

Even DEA agent Johnny Sowell, who leads Operation ICE Storm in the area, acknowledges that arresting and convicting drug dealers won’t make the drug problem go away—they will be replaced, and the drugs will continue to come

Reports from as early as 2012 claim that 80% to 90% of methamphetamine in the United States comes from south of the border. Talking Drugs reported in 2014 that the number of meth labs reported by the DEA “more than halved” since 2004, suggesting that domestic production of meth has gone down significantly.

Authorities say that “ice”—said to be twice as potent—has replaced American-made meth. 

Meth Storm debuts on HBO on Monday, November 27. Watch the trailer below:

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Victoria is interested in anything that has to do with how mind-altering substances impact society. Find Victoria on LinkedIn or Tumblr