Louis Theroux – The City Addicted To Crystal Meth Review: Powering Theroux

August 7, 2009 by  
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Over the years we have witnessed the charmingly stiff-upper-lipped Louis Theroux go where no one else would dare venture.

We’ve seen him hanging out with the world’s most dangerous criminals, rehabilitating paedophiles, even fraternising with the Hamiltons.

In this latest special Louis travels to Fresno, California, an impoverished rural town lying on the Central Valley of California that has been ravaged by crystal meth abuse. As unemployment rises and homelessness follows, many become dependent on this easily made, abundant, cheap and highly addictive drug.

He follows the city police make their busts, speaking to the detainees in some poignant exchanges.

A woman on the curb laughs uncontrollably, later sobbing: “I get high because I just want the pain to go away?. A man speaks to Theroux through a contorted jaw about the damage crystal meth has done to him physically.

Theroux’s genteel demeanour is conducive to his work; he’s never judgmental or threatening, allowing those he encounters to speak frankly about their experiences, when they could give him a big wallop for prying.

There are programmes in place to lessen the damage crystal meth is doing. Many addicts are sent, as an alternative to jail, to Westcare Residential Center where they can rehabilitate under the care of ex-addicts.

At Westcare the vicious cycle of meth abuse reveals itself. Theroux learns that here many babies are born addicted to the drug. Families are broken as the children of addicts follow the same pattern as their parents.

Louis meets Diane and Karl, who despite losing their five children and the meth addiction that has consumed their adult life, have managed to sustain their 20-year marriage. They still have hopes and dreams. They’re just fogged by their addiction, very much still there, but lost.

It’s a sad subject though treated with such care. Theroux is never preachy or biased, though never is the documentary sentimental either. The stiff upper lip remains.

Leonie Mercedes

For an alternative take on intoxicated youths read our review on BBC3’s Binge Drinking: My Big Decision, or if more high-brow docs float your boat, read our review on The War Against Street Weapons.