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Why Do Drug Addicts Steal Copper?

Why Do Drug Addicts Steal Copper

Metal theft is one of the fastest-growing crimes in the nation. Metals like copper, steel, nickel, aluminum, stainless steel, and scrap iron have all become desired targets of thieves looking to make a quick dollar. One large insurance company cited copper as a particular concern because it can be quickly removed from abandoned or closed buildings and homes. Odd as it may seem, this behavior is especially common among addicts. But why do drug addicts steal copper, and how do they get away with it?


Why Addicts Steal Copper Wire

The current price of copper in U.S. dollars per pound is $3.44, while metals like stainless steel are around $0.23 per pound. Considering this, with enough copper, someone could easily make a good chunk of cash. With this said, addicts steal copper to make quick money to buy more drugs or alcohol.

Most of these crimes are driven by the high price of copper, and many are committed by people who are looking to sell the metal to support their drug habits. The U.S. Department of Justice Office of Community Oriented Policing Services wrote in their “Theft of Scrap Metal” guide that to support their drug use, addicts require repeated and quick access to small amounts of cash.1

Moreover, because addiction becomes the individual’s priority, they begin to neglect their responsibilities, including their career. As a result, many addicts experience unemployment. At this point, obtaining the money to buy more drugs can be impossible.

This is where stealing wire comes in. Addicts may take to stealing copper from abandoned houses, businesses, thrift stores, cars, household appliances, computers, and TVs to sell it for a quick buck. Because copper is usually priced much higher than other metals, it is a well-desired and profitable metal for people looking to feed their drug addiction.


How Do Drug Addicts Steal Copper?

Addicts may steal copper by breaking into abandoned homes and buildings. In addition to the places mentioned previously, addicts have also been known to break into electrical substations, cellular towers, telephone landlines, railroads, water wells, and construction sites to steal copper wire.

Once in the building, the individual may try to find scrap pieces of copper (solid ones are usually more profitable) or may rip open walls, break apart electronic devices, and virtually do anything they can to find copper. Once it’s obtained, the individual may go to scrap yards to sell their copper.

But can this be prevented? Scrap metal dealers can potentially maximize their profits by paying reduced prices for stolen metals like copper. However, with proper regulation, they can better maximize their profit by avoiding purchasing stolen metals, consequent fines, and confiscation of stolen products.

Utility companies have also become increasingly proactive in response to copper theft by encouraging customers to report any suspicious activity and cooperating with law enforcement. Utility companies have security and risk management personnel who are important advocates for addressing scrap metal theft. 1


Help for Addiction

Stealing scrap metal is just one of the many desperate behaviors and crimes that addicts may commit to feed their drug habits. Some even take to drinking antifreeze as a replacement for alcohol. Turning to criminal activity and even stealing and lying from loved ones are common signs of drug abuse.

If someone you care about has displayed signs of addiction, do not wait any longer to get help. Our Stuart, FL, rehab center offers various levels of addiction treatment and substance-specific programs to address all kinds of substance use disorders. Our comprehensive and individualized approach to treating drug and alcohol use disorders has led thousands of people to sobriety, and it can help you.

Call our Stuart, Florida, Banyan Treatment Center today at 888-280-4763 to get started.



  1. S. Department of Justice - Theft of Scrap Metal
  2. ThermoFisher Scientific - Catalytic Converter Theft: Does This Crime Pay?


Related Reading:

What Is an Addictive Personality

Disability and Addiction: Substance Abuse Among the Physically Disabled

Alyssa, Director of Digital Marketing
Alyssa, Director of Digital Marketing
Alyssa is the National Director of Digital Marketing and is responsible for a multitude of integrated campaigns and events in the behavioral health and addictions field. All articles have been written by Alyssa and medically reviewed by our Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Darrin Mangiacarne.
Why Do Drug Addicts Steal Copper?
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