On some level, meth cooks or meth makers and meth users are something like mice. If they can find an entry, they will invade a space. With that in mind, hotels and motels at times become locations where meth sometimes is manufactured and oftentimes is used. The resulting harsh reality is that with alarming frequency, hotel and motel rooms end up contaminated with meth or other harmful chemicals and future patrons are exposed to these dangers. 

Meth Contamination and the Fast-Turnaround Cycle of Hotels and Motels

By design, hotels and motels are structured to permit an immediate turnaround in room occupancy. If proprietors of these businesses have their way, the transition from one guest to another is seamless. The process has slowed somewhat during the COVID-19 pandemic due to the need for more extensive room cleaning. However, the turnover process is not slowed sufficiently to permit even a relatively quick sampling of rooms to detect meth contamination or the presence of other chemicals associated with the manufacture of this dangerous illicit drug. 

As will be discussed in a moment, meth making in a motel or hotel room usually is identified when a meth cook departs. However, that is not always the case. On the other hand, the fact that meth was used in a hotel or motel room is rarely identified, although this activity presents a tangible health risk to future patrons. 

Meth Making and Hotels and Motels

Meth manufacturers frequently will select a hotel or motel room as a location to cook meth. They do so because it provides privacy and a space that they can abandon very quickly. 

As was noted, meth manufacturing in a hotel or motel room will result in a significant level of hazardous material being left behind. These harmful substances can cause significant harm to the health of future guests in a room in which meth was manufactured. The dangers associated with the chemicals left behind as a result of meth making, including meth residue itself, will persist for a truly extended period of time absent professional meth decontamination. 

As also mentioned, in many but not all cases, the fact that meth manufacturing occurred in a hotel or motel room will be apparent to lodging staff members trained appropriately to identify this illegal activity. Lodging magazine identifies telltale signs that may be present after a meth cook has taken place are:

  • Room will be in a chaotic condition, oftentimes fairly described as being “trashed”
  • Wastebaskets will of overflowing
  • Bedding and towels likely will have been destroyed
  • Room will have a pungent or putrid odor
  • Evidence associated with making meth may have been left behind in the room

When hotel or motel staff (likely the housekeeping team) enter a room in this type of condition, they need to immediately exit. Even a short exposure to a room where meth cooking occurred can endanger a person’s health. Depending on what has been left behind after a meth cook, a risk of explosion may also exist.

The police should be called immediately. Law enforcement will coordinate a basic HAZMAT sweep of the room to eliminate equipment and chemicals that remain after a meth cook. With that said, law enforcement rarely (if ever) will take the additional step of providing thorough meth decontamination. As Lodging magazine advises businesses and professionals in the lodging industry, meth decontamination and remediation “should always be performed by specially trained and equipped outside personnel.”

Meth Smoking and Resulting Contamination in a Hotel or Motel Room

With alarming frequency, occupants of hotel and motel rooms smoke meth. They also inject meth, a process known as “slamming.” While this does present a potential hazard in the form of contaminated needles, it does not result in a more extensive type of contamination resulting from smoking meth

Because the aftereffects of making meth in a hotel or motel room oftentimes (but, not always) are apparent, a responsible hotel or motel team contacts law enforcement and follows up that intervention with professional meth decontamination. The same cannot be said of a situation in which the aftereffects of smoking meth in a hotel or motel room need to be addressed. 

Cross-Contamination in a Hotel or Motel

Most hotels and motels have “shared” or “common” HVAC systems serving multiple rooms and other spaces in a property. As a consequence, meth contamination that exists in one room – including meth contamination caused by manufacturing and smoking – can end up contaminating other rooms and spaces in a hotel or motel.

Signs and Symptoms of Meth Exposure

The “master list” of signs and symptoms associated with “third-party meth exposure are akin to those a person who directly uses meth will experience. The signs and symptoms are more profound and pervasive depending on the level of meth contamination in a hotel or motel room and the length of time a person is exposed to the meth contamination. 

  • Watery, red, and burning eyes, often accompanied by discharge and pain
  • Skin irritations, redness and rashes
  • Chest and/or abdominal pain and diarrhea
  • Chronic sneezing and coughing and shortness of breath
  • Negative effects on the central nervous system
  • Congestion of the voice box and other throat problems
  • Moderate or severe headaches
  • Dark-colored urine
  • Rapid heart rate 
  • Yellow jaundice
  • Fever
  • Decrease in mental capabilities
  • Hallucinations

If a hotel or motel staff member exhibits these symptoms, serious consideration must be given to the prospect that meth contamination exists somewhere on the property.