It’s bad enough having your car stolen, as Sarah Michelson will tell you. Finding yourself sick and high on the side of the freeway? That’s what we’d call adding insult to injury.

You’ve probably read a few stories like Sarah’s in the local news. Though, we’d wager that most of them involve the purchase of a home. (And a family that found themselves suddenly ill). However, while people are more aware of the dangers of meth, most still have some flawed ideas about contamination. They picture it as an issue you’ll only find in decrepit run-down properties or gritty abandoned warehouses.

Of course, that’s not terribly accurate. Meth can show up the places you least expect. And, while it hasn’t received as much attention, that absolutely includes cars.


Sarah Michelson.



We heard from Sarah at the end of a rough journey. It started with the theft of her vehicle, which was stressful enough on its own. Worse yet, when police found it, her car had made its way to Salt Lake City. (Sarah lived in Wyoming).

Now, typically, police won’t deliver stolen property themselves. Most of the time, you need to go pick it up. For Sarah, that meant packing her overnight bag and crossing state lines. Once she finished the paperwork and everything was in order, she headed home, driving for about an hour.

Unfortunately, that was as far as she got. Within that short window of time, she was already high. Her legs were numb, and her head was aching. She’d even started hallucinating.

After a thorough medical evaluation, Sarah called us. We tested the car and found meth (at 65µg/100cm²) – a decent amount of contamination. Still, with those types of symptoms, we generally would have expected to see a reading closer to 100µg/100cm². That goes to show you that residual meth, especially in a confined space, can have potent effects – and even at less extreme levels.



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Sarah’s story is something of a cautionary tale, and it isn’t unheard of. That’s why we always recommend testing vehicles under the following circumstances:


  • If your car was stolen and returned to you.
  • When purchasing a car at auction.
  • Whenever buying a salvage title.
  • If you notice symptoms of meth exposure while driving or occupying your vehicle.
  • Any time you suspect someone may have used drugs in your car.
  • It may also be wise when purchasing a used vehicle in general.


The good news is there’s a lot you can do about methamphetamine contamination. Start by watching for our next few blogs. We’ll be discussing statewide policies – and what every Utah driver and automobile personnel should know about meth. Or, if you’d rather not wait, call a Certified Decontamination Specialist. They can help you build a decontamination plan that works for you. If you’re in Utah feel free to call us, at (801) 888-6698.

An alias was used in this story for the sake of privacy. 
Image by Noel Bauza from Pixabay