"Motherhood & Meth" Doc Explores How The Drug Affects Families

By David Konow 08/29/18

The documentary spotlights Fresno, California, where the high incidence of child abuse is directly attributed to methamphetamine.

Still from Motherhood & Meth
Photo via YouTube

With so much focus on the opioid crisis, many don’t realize that meth is reportedly making a big comeback, and now a new documentary, Motherhood & Meth, is taking a look at the devastating consequences of being a parent suffering from addiction.

Motherhood & Meth is a short documentary directed by journalist Mary Newman, and it specifically focuses on the connection between meth addiction and child abuse.

The documentary spotlights Fresno, California, where a large degree of child abuse is directly attributed to the drug.

The Valley Children’s Hospital, which is in the Fresno area, sees about 1,000 cases of abuse every year, and the hospital’s medical director, Dr. Philip Hyden, believes meth is involved in 70% of them.  

Child abuse and neglect cases in Fresno County have gone up 31% in the last 15 years, and often the abuse can start early, with a reported 19,000 pregnant women in America suffering from meth addiction. (In the Fresno area, meth is the number one drug abused by pregnant women when they check into rehab.)

Newman told The Atlantic that when she talked to mothers with addiction for her documentary, “I would ask if meth ever caused them or someone in their life to become violent. Everyone responded with an emphatic ‘yes.’”

And a number of the people Newman spoke to were repeating cycles of violence they suffered when they were young, often from parents that were also hooked on meth themselves.

“The power methamphetamine has on a person’s life was the most surprising part of [reporting] this story,” Newman says. “I would speak with people struggling with addiction and they would have a certain self-awareness that their decisions were derailing their life, but they would also describe a feeling of complete helplessness.”

This documentary reports that meth busts in California have increased over five times between 2000 and 2016, and a DEA official told the Atlantic that meth is cheaper than ever to buy, with the prices dropping from about $968 an ounce in 2013, to $250 in 2016.

Leticia Bayton, a Fresno cop who was interviewed for the documentary, confessed that her sister, who is also a mother, succumbed to meth addiction.

“It destroyed her,” she said. “It completely killed her from the inside out. She used to be an excellent mother, totally attentive, devoted to her child. Then once the meth came in, she stopped caring about herself and her children. Her sense of responsibility faded, and her entire life revolved around where she was going to get her next hit.”

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In addition to contributing for The Fix, David Konow has also written for Esquire, Deadline, LA Weekly, Village Voice, The Wrap, and many other publications and websites. He is also the author of the three decade history of heavy metal, Bang Your Head (Three Rivers Press), and the horror film history Reel Terror (St Martins Press). Find David on LinkedIn and Facebook.