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

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

Stealing: A Common Tactic and Sign of Drug Use

Stealing wallet from pants

Substance abuse wrecks all areas of a person’s life, from their mental and physical health to their relationships with friends and loved ones. The compulsion to use drugs might lead some to steal to get money for drugs. Theft is an all too common side effect of drug use. This problem can include stealing from friends and family, shoplifting from stores, and in some cases, outright robbery.

If you’ve experienced the act of theft by someone you love, know that you’re not alone. This might even provide you with the opportunity to address the addiction head on. This can serve as a starting point to help your loved one recognize the need for treatment and recovery.

Brad’s Story

A star wrestler in college, Brad started casually using opioid painkillers to get high with his buddies. This was part of his social circle, and it helped alleviate any pain related to post-practice soreness. However, his habit quickly increased from social use to taking pills in isolation. His friends started to notice that Brad was often high.

At first, they didn’t think too much of it. But then, Brad started showing up to practice with glossy eyes, or he didn’t bother showing up at all. His friends tried to intervene, but since they all used too, it fell on deaf ears. He told them that the drug use was completely under control.

Brad’s athletic performance was still exemplary, so they let it go, wanting to believe him. Then cash started disappearing from gym bags. His friends decided it was time to take action. They told their coach that Brad was most likely behind the theft.

When confronted, Brad became agitated and defensive. He insisted he didn’t steal anything and immediately lashed out to his friends. While it came as a shock to Brad’s teammates, the truth is that this story is not at all uncommon. Once addiction takes hold, people will do anything to get the money they need for their next fix.

From burglary to selling drugs, forgery, theft, and even receiving stolen goods, addiction will quickly transform a loved one into a veritable stranger. Some other signs of drug addiction include the following.1

  • Failure to meet responsibilities at home, school, or work
  • Inability to control or cut down on drug use
  • Persistent cravings to use the drug
  • Giving up previously enjoyed hobbies in favor of drug use

Statistics on Stealing and Drug Use

For some drug users, the habit of stealing develops alongside the addiction. As casual use leads to outright compulsive use, the need to obtain drugs takes priority. Users will go to any length to get more of their preferred drug. Research on drug related crime in the US has revealed startling statistics.2,3

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

Man reaching out for drugs

These statistics only represent self-reported actions of being under the influence while committing crimes. If statistics were adjusted to include everyone who routinely uses drugs (and not just self-reported cases) then the numbers are even more alarming.2

  • 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.

Making Excuses

Addicts will say anything and everything to avoid repercussions. They will tell you what they expect you want to hear, offering a litany of excuses for their actions. Some common phrases include the following:

  • “I forgot to ask you.”
  • “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.”
  • “You told me I could have it. Don’t you remember?”

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. Here are some questions to consider:

How Do You Help Your Loved One?

In the event that your friend or family member is robbing you in order to get money for drugs, then 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 Should You Open the Conversation?

The best time to confront your loved one about their addictive behavior is when they’ve already made a commitment to sobriety. Try to avoid approaching a person when they’re under the influence, since their behavior will be unpredictable.

How Should You Communicate with Your Loved One?

The response you get from your loved one will vary largely based on the relationship you have with that person. Make sure you use kind and nonjudgmental words. Express your love and concern and avoid using blame-oriented language. Many addicts already feel a lot of inherent shame and guilt; try not to compound those feelings.

How Can You Prevent a Confrontation?

Depending 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. The best conversations happen when you come from a supportive loving space. Offer to help your loved one along in the recovery process and remind them that you’re here for them because you care.

When Should You Get Law Enforcement Involved?

If your loved one has committed large crimes, then you need to contact local law enforcement. Filing a police report means that your loved one might be required to complete mandated treatment, and that can ultimately help in the long run.

It’s hard to prove a person is stealing from you if they’re rummaging through your purse or wallet. Law enforcement is generally reticent to become involved. Instead, consider holding an intervention to discuss treatment options.

How Do You Get Help?

Getting help for your loved one typically means finding an addiction recovery program for him or her. If your loved one is stealing from you, the addiction might warrant an in-patient residential treatment program. This will help your loved one separate from the triggers and temptation to use drugs.


How Do You Care for Yourself?

Loving an addict will take its toll on you. You have to remember to take care of yourself in the process and don’t let your mental state deteriorate too much. By promoting feelings of relation and positivity, you can help decrease the potential for anxiety and depression.

Yoga, meditation, and art or music therapy can all help you find a positive mental space. Massages and doing things you enjoy can also help.

Support groups for friends and families of addicts can be exceptionally useful when you’re struggling to find peace with the challenges you face. Consider Nar-Anon Family groups, Al-Anon Family groups, SMART Recovery for Family and Friends, or Co-Dependents Anonymous.4-7


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

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