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When a Friend or Family Member Is Stealing From You for Drugs

When it comes to substance abuse, the compulsion to use may lead those struggling with addiction to do just about anything to get their hands on more drugs – including stealing.

While it’s devastating to discover an act of theft by someone you love, the situation may provide you with an opportunity to address the addiction issue once and for all.

In the end, it might serve as a starting point from where you’ll be able to help the person recognize the need for treatment in a rehabilitation program.

Stealing: A Common Tactic and Sign of Drug Use

Stealing wallet from pants

Theft – from stealing from friends and family, to shoplifting or even more elaborate and illegal acts – is an all-too-common side effect of drug abuse.

Noticing it may alert you to the fact that your loved one has started depending on drugs on a more regular basis.

Brad’s Story

Brad was a star wrestler in college. He started casually using opioid painkillers to get high with his friends – as well as to alleviate any pain related to post-practice soreness. His habit gradually increased from social drug use to isolated drug use, and his friends began to notice he was high more often than not.

At first, they didn’t think much of it because they also abused prescription opioids, but when Brad started showing up late for practice with glossy eyes, they started to get concerned. They spoke to him about his worsening habit and he brushed it off, insisting that he was fine and that he had it under control.

Brad’s athletic performance was still exemplary, so they let it go – wanting to believe him. It wasn’t until different members of the team started noticing that cash was missing from their bags in the locker room that his friends decided to take action and tell the coach that they thought Brad was behind the theft.

When confronted, Brad became extremely defensive and insisted he hadn’t stolen any money from the team. He began to lash out at his friends and accused them of stealing the money for their own drug use.

Brad’s story is not uncommon in the world of drug abuse. People who you’ve trusted for years – or even your whole life – may betray you in order to get their next fix. Addiction slowly but surely changes your loved one into a stranger. Individuals who suffer from an addiction to drugs often have a history of crime related to drug use or drug possession. They may be involved in crimes such as:

  • Burglary.
  • Selling drugs.
  • Forgery.
  • Theft.
  • Receiving stolen goods.

Some other signs of drug addiction include1:
Man reaching out for drugs

  • Inability to control or cut down on drug use.
  • An excessive amount of time is spent obtaining and using the drug – as well as recovering from the adverse effects of the drug.
  • Persistent cravings to use the drug.
  • Failure to meet responsibilities at home, school, or work.
  • Social and interpersonal problems caused by drug use.
  • Previously enjoyed hobbies are given up in favor of drug use.

Statistics on Stealing and Drug Use

In some cases, theft behavior evolves in parallel with the development of compulsive drug use behavior. As casual experimentation gives way to full-blown addiction, the need to obtain and use that substance takes priority over everything else in life. People don’t behave like themselves and will go to great lengths to get more of the drug – even if that means stealing from friends and family.

Research on U.S. drug-related crime – dating as far back as 2004 – has revealed that2,3:

  • 18% of federal inmates and 17% of state prisoners reported that the reason they committed their crime had been to get money for drugs.
  • Among first year inmates who used drugs on a regular basis, the top three crimes committed were:
    • Motor vehicle theft.
    • Robbery.
    • Larceny.
  • About 25% of arrests for robbery involved marijuana, while 15% involved cocaine.
  • Cocaine was associated with about 22% of larceny crimes.
  • Methamphetamines and amphetamines were responsible for nearly 30% of motor vehicle thefts.

These statistics represent those who reported themselves as being under the influence of drugs when committing a crime. But if these stats were readjusted to include all of those who regularly used drugs – and not just those who self-reported drug use – then the numbers associated with drug-related crimes would increase greatly as follows2:

  • Just under 63% of larceny arrests would be associated with drug use.
  • More than 50% of burglary and robbery arrests would be drug-related.
  • Nearly 68% of motor vehicle thefts would involve drug use.

Excuses Thieves Might Use

People caught in the act of stealing might throw up a wall of words to avoid repercussions and to potentially keep the door open for it to occur again in the future. Common phrases used include:

  • “I forgot to ask you.”
  • “You told me I could have it. Don’t you remember?”
  • “I just need the money for a few days. I didn’t think you’d mind.”
  • “I was going to give it back.”
  • “I’d let you borrow from me, if you needed to.”

What You Can Do When You Are Robbed

If your loved one has been stealing from you in order to support his or her addiction, you are not helpless. There are many different measures you can take to help your friend or family member change his or her life. Additionally, there are a number of ways you can also care for yourself in the meantime.

Help Your Loved One

In the event that your friend or family member is robbing you in order to get money for drugs – instead of lashing out at him or her, take this opportunity to get them help. Remember, a substance addiction becomes compulsive and debilitating. Chances are, your loved one will appreciate your love and concern.

How and When to Approach Your Loved One

The best time to approach your loved one is when he or she is already trying to kick the habit. This means he or she has admitted the problem and has the desire to quit. Sometimes acknowledging that drug use has spiraled out of control is half the battle when trying to help someone else.

Try to avoid approaching your friend or family member when he or she is under the influence. He or she will be in no state to discuss serious matters or plans to seek help. You also run the risk that your loved one won’t remember the conversation once the drug effects wear off.

How to Communicate with Your Loved One

Mother being supportive while talking to daughterDepending on how you communicate with your loved one, you may get a positive response or a defensive response. In order to increase the odds of a receptive reaction, you will want to speak to him or her in a kind and nonjudgmental manner.

Express your love and concern for your friend or family member and avoid using blame-oriented language. Many people suffering from an addiction already feel a lot of shame and guilt associated with their condition – and blaming will only exacerbate these negative feelings.

It’s also important that you avoid confrontation, which could cause your loved one to act defensive or flee the situation – both of which are counterproductive to seeking addiction treatment.

The best conversations occur when you come from a collaborative and encouraging angle, offering to support him or her along the recovery process by attending support groups, family therapy, or 12-step programs together.

In summary:

  • DO speak with kindness.
  • DO express love and concern.
  • DO approach conversations with collaboration, encouragement, and support.

  • DON’T communicate judgmentally.
  • DON’T use blame-oriented language.
  • DON’T communicate confrontationally.

How to Get Help for Your Loved One

Getting help for your loved one typically means finding an addiction recovery program for him or her.

There are many different types of treatment programs available, and the best choice of a program will all depend on the user’s individual needs. Inpatient treatment programs require that the patient live at the facility for the duration of treatment while receiving a number of services, such as individual therapy, group counseling, medical maintenance, and aftercare planning.

If your loved one is stealing from you in order to pay for drugs, it’s possible that his or her addiction is severe enough to warrant residential treatment – where he or she can be separated from everyday triggers and temptations to use the drug again.

If you’d like to get help for your loved one, call our helpline at 1-888-744-0789 to learn about different recovery options available. We have treatment support specialists available to talk to you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

When to Get Law Enforcement Involved

It can be extremely difficult to recruit help from law enforcement when the person stealing from you is someone you love. But there may be cases where this measure becomes necessary. You have to remember to look out for yourself and do what’s best for you – even if it’s painful.

If your loved one is rummaging through your purse and wallet and stealing spare cash, it’s probably not necessary to get law enforcement involved. Instead, you should try to hold an intervention or have an open discussion with him or her about seeking treatment.

Conversely, if your friend or family member has committed larger crimes – such as identity theft or credit card fraud – then it is most likely better for you to file a police report and let law enforcement handle the issue. Involving law enforcement may benefit your loved one with mandated addiction treatment that can help change his or her life around.

Care for Yourself

When trying to get help for your loved one, you must remember to care for yourself in the process as well. You will be limited in how much you can benefit your friend or family’s recovery process if you don’t additionally tend to your own mental health and well-being.

Below are some things you can do to promote relaxation, increase positivity, and decrease anxiety and depression:

  • Practice yoga.
  • Meditate.
  • Read a book.
  • Engage in art or music therapy.
  • Get a massage.
  • Make time for yourself and your hobbies.
  • Hang out with friends and family.
  • Attend individual therapy.
  • Check out support groups for friends and families of addicts.
    • Nar-Anon Family Groups.4
    • Al-Anon Family Groups.5
    • SMART Recovery for Family and Friends.6
    • Co-Dependents Anonymous: Although not explicitly for loved ones of addicts, it can help to rectify broken and unhealthy relationships.7

Drug Addiction Treatment Facilities

When your loved one is ready to seek addiction recovery, you will discover that there are a few different types of treatment facilities available to consider:

  • Luxury treatment facilities provide residential addiction treatment often set amongst resort-like amenities designed to make your recovery process as comfortable as possible.
  • Executive treatment facilities also offer relatively upscale, private residential addiction treatment – but these facilities also provide the resources and program structure to allow busy professionals to stay active at work throughout the recovery duration.
  • Standard treatment facilities offer both residential (“inpatient”) and non-residential (“outpatient”) addiction treatment. While these facilities do not offer the same range of luxuries as the more exclusive programs, they do come at lower, more affordable prices for those on more limited budgets.

We Can Help You Find Help

If you have experienced theft from a family member or friend who struggles with a drug addiction, we are here to help. We’ll be glad to answer any questions you may have and will try to better understand your unique situation so as to help you find just the right treatment center for your loved one. Please give us a call at 1-888-744-0789 today. We’d love to connect with you and walk you through your options.


  1. Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders: DSM-5. (2013). Washington, D.C.: American Psychiatric Association.
  2. Improving the Measurement of Drug-Related Crime. (2013). Office of National Drug Control Policy, Executive Office of the President.
  3. Drug use and crime. (2004). Bureau of Justice Statistics.
  4. What’s Nar-Anon? (2015). Nar-Anon.org.
  5. Al-Anon Family Groups. (2015). Al-Anon.org.
  6. Help for Family & Friends. (2016). SMART Recovery.
  7. Welcome to Co-Dependents Anonymous. (2016). CoDA.org.