The comedian and his sister open up about their difficult childhood and her descent into addiction and drug dealing

By Steve Helling
May 06, 2021 10:00 AM
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From the start, Tom Arnold and his sister Lori had a difficult childhood.

Growing up in the small town of Ottumwa, Iowa, they were just toddlers when their mother, Linda, abandoned the family. "My mother was a wild child," Lori Arnold, 60, tells PEOPLE in its latest issue. "She did what she wanted."

When they were young, they lived with their father -—but they moved in with their freewheeling mom when they were teenagers. "There weren't any rules," says Tom, 62.

But that freedom came at a price.

In 1974, Lori, then just a 14-year-old eighth grader, wanted to marry a 23-year-old man — and mom Linda drove the couple across the state border to Missouri to legally secure a marriage license for them.  "I had this terrible feeling like her childhood was over, and whatever innocence she had," Tom tells PEOPLE.

tom and lori arnold
Credit: Lori Arnold

Lori and Tom Arnold are opening up about their family struggles in a three-part documentary, Queen of Meth, streaming on discovery+  May 7. They share their story with PEOPLE in its latest issue.

Lori began drug dealing as a teen — first selling speed and prescription drugs, and then later selling crystal methamphetamine in the mid-1980s when the drug began to spread across the midwest. (Tom and Lori open up on tonight's episode of PEOPLE (the TV Show) A clip from the episode is shown below.)

For more on how Lori Arnold became known as the "Queen of Meth," subscribe now to PEOPLE or pick up this week's issue, on newsstands Friday.

An alcoholic and drug addict, Lori became one of the most prolific meth dealers in the midwest, eventually grossing more than $200,000 per week. But in 1989, the FBI arrested her and seized more than $10 million in assets. She was convicted of drug trafficking and money laundering and spent more than 15 years in prison.

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Lori tells PEOPLE she has many regrets from that period of her life.

"I hear about all these young kids that are killing themselves, and OD-ing," she says, "and I feel guilty about it. I wish I could go back and do things differently.  I can only hope that others can learn through my mistakes." 

Queen of Meth begins streaming on discovery+ on Friday, May 7.