9:30pm Tuesday, August 31 on TV One
Louis Theroux visits Central Valley, California, home to some of the most impoverished rural towns in America, where crystal-meth addiction is among the most prolific in the USA (tonight at 9.30pm on TV ONE)
“Methamphetamine, or crystal meth, is a derivative of speed. Cheap and easy to produce, it can be devastating for those who get addicted” Theroux explains. “I was hoping to understand the hold the drug exerts over its users…by spending time in the world of the hardcore addicts.”
Theroux begins by asking a policeman in the city, how much of the crime they see is meth related? The policeman paints a bleak picture, “half or maybe even more. Everybody knows somebody that’s got a family member or friend or relative that somehow has been impacted by narcotics. Everything from domestic violence, child abuse, property crimes, theft, vehicle burglaries.”
Theroux is curious to meet more addicts and understand the appeal of the meth lifestyle, “given the scale of the drug problem in Fresno, it’s perhaps not surprising that the city’s also home to the largest rehab facility in the state of California. It’s run by a company called Westcare. Many of the addicts here have been sent by the courts as an alternative to a jail term. They live segregated by sex. A majority have a problem with meth,” he says.
“Recently, there’s been a surge in the number of addicted women. One of the side effects of meth is unbridled sexual activity and many of the women are mothers to large numbers of children.”
Theroux meets Westcare’s Deputy Administrator, Lynn Pimantelle, who talks about the kind of women who come under her care, “85 per cent have been victims of sexual, physical or emotional abuse. Men know who their enemies are, who would want to hurt them. They’re gangs, they’re the police. Women tend to be abused and hurt by those who say ‘i love you’, so we treat the men different than the women. They [men] have to learn how to express themselves. Women have no problems expressing themselves, it’s what they do with it that is the problem.”
Theroux meets addicts who claim to live relatively normally lives, like a man called Carl, who along with his wife, spends between $400 – $700 a week on his habit. Carl says “I slam [inject] three or four times a day every day and I eat, sleep every day, take vitamins, take care of myself and sure, it’s affected my life some but I have a wife, we’ve been together 27 years.” However, despite Carl’s claims that his life is unaffected, Theroux discovers that he and his wife lost custody of their five children because of their habit.
Theroux comes to a conclusion about the city’s problem and asks Pimantell, “is it possible that it’s not really about meth, it’s about severely damaged people, people from traumatic backgrounds, and they’ll find something to medicate themselves with, no matter what?”
Pimantelle agrees, “yes. I think you’re right. The physical and the psychological addiction is much more potent than other drugs and because it’s cheap, abundant and rapidly and highly addictive, of course that’s why we have more of them.”
Theroux summarises, “meth can destroy lives and create misery, but it also takes root in communities that are already chaotic and under strain. It provides a primitive and dangerous kind of pain relief, going on to cause new pain across the generations.”