- Jul 16
Substance addiction can transform the person you know and trust into a stranger who will do almost anything to get high. Theft is a heartbreaking but all too common side effect of substance misuse, stemming from a need to get money to buy more drugs.
If you’ve discovered someone you care for is stealing to fund their addiction, this situation may be the opportunity you need to address their drug misuse head-on.
Statistics on Stealing and Drug Addiction
When someone steals to fund their addiction, this is a drug-related crime. These offenses are motivated by that person’s need for money to support their overwhelming cravings to continue using.
Around 60% of inmates in both state prisons and local jails meet the criteria for a substance use disorder. Just under 20% of prisoners admit to committing their crime to get money for drugs. Yet, this statistic only accounts for self-reported actions. The Office of National Drug Control Policy reported that anywhere between 5% to 30% of all robberies, burglaries, car thefts and larcenies are committed by individuals under the influence of the big three — opiates, methamphetamines and cocaine.
Why People Struggling With Addiction Steal From Family Members and Friends
Whether it’s grabbing some loose dollars, pilfering leftover pain meds or raiding your bank account, jewelry box or credit cards, stealing can feel like a personal attack.
However, if your loved one is taking money or items to fuel their drug addiction, their actions stem from desperation, not hatred.
Addiction is a disease that hijacks the brain’s reward circuitry, leading to devastating consequences. Many individuals impacted by addiction will lie, cheat and steal — anything that will help them continue using. Once addiction extensively rewires the brain to seek drugs, individuals may find it easier to justify these devastating behaviors.
Excuses They Might Use
Those struggling with addiction are often unwilling to admit they have a problem. Even if you catch them stealing, they may have numerous defenses to deflect your anger so you won’t confront their obviously inappropriate behavior. Common excuses could include:
- I didn’t think you’d mind if I borrowed a few dollars.
- I forgot to ask.
- I was going to pay you back.
- I let you borrow from me when you needed money.
- You told me I could take some money, remember?
How to Help a Loved One Who Is Stealing to Fuel a Drug Habit
If a friend or family member has been stealing from you to support their drug habit, you may feel devastated and betrayed, but you are not helpless. You can take several measures to help your loved one and protect yourself:
- Be honest: Many people are in denial about how their addiction impacts those they love. Be honest and confront them head-on. Express your feelings of hurt and betrayal. Encountering the dark depths of their dependence could help them recognize their need for help.
- Reassess your financial connections: If you hold joint financial accounts your loved one can access to pay for drugs, it may be time to separate your finances completely.
- Report the theft: Some crimes are best handled by law enforcement. Whether it involves stealing your identity or robbing you of valuable property, filing a police report can help you recoup your losses. While this may cause your loved one’s arrest, that could be the wake-up call they need to get treatment.
Find Effective Substance Misuse Treatment at Gateway Foundation
Theft, when confronted, can help your loved one see their need for treatment. If you or someone you care for is ready to break free from addiction’s destructive effects, we’re here to help. For over 50 years, Gateway Foundation has brought effective, evidence-based care to the people who need it most. Please contact us today to learn more.