Why Do Drug Addicts Steal Copper?

Posted Jun 4, 2022 ~ Updated Jun 14, 2022

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When picturing drug addicts, an image that may come to mind is the struggling drug addict who steals copper. But is this an accurate stereotype? Do all drug addicts steal copper? Also, why do addicts steal copper?

Drug addicts steal copper to support their drug habits. Once stolen, an addict can take the copper to a scrap metal yard where they sell it for cash. They will then use the proceeds to purchase drugs.

Why Drug Addicts Steal Copper?

Addicts steal copper to support their drug habits. When we're battling addiction, the desire to use drugs is so powerful that we cannot ignore it.

When we are dependent on substances, our primary focus in life is getting high. We are constantly evaluating how many drugs we have and how long they will last us.

When our supply gets low or runs out, we become desperate and are willing to do whatever it takes to acquire more drugs.

Drugs are not cheap, and most addicts are unable to hold down legitimate jobs while using them.

That is why many of us to crime as the primary means of supporting our addictions. There are many illegal ways that an addict can make money to purchase drugs; stealing copper is just one such method.

Stealing copper is an attractive idea for an addict in need of quick cash because of its accessibility. Most buildings contain copper. An average single-family home contains 439 pounds of copper.

Another potential appeal of stealing copper is the demand. While the price of copper fluctuates, there is always a place to sell the stolen material.

What Do Drug Addicts Do With Stolen Copper?

Once an addict has stolen copper, they will try to get rid of it as fast as possible. The longer they have the stolen goods in their possession, the greater the risk of getting caught.

Copper itself is useless to a drug addict. We want drugs, which means we need to turn the stolen metal into cash.

Fortunately for the copper thief, there are businesses out there that will do just that. Scrap metal yards pay cash for scrap metal. Anybody can bring metal to a scrap yard and sell it.

Employees of scrap yards tend not to ask questions about where the metal came from. All an addict needs to do is transport the stolen goods to a scrap yard, and soon they will have money in hand.

Once at the scrap yard, an employee weighs the copper to determine its worth. The amount of money an addict receives depends on the weight and type of copper.

At the time of writing this article, the price of copper is between $1.65 and $4.00 per pound. That means that an addict can make enough money to get high with just 5 to 10 pounds of copper.

How Do Drug Addicts Steal Copper?

Stealing copper usually involves breaking into a place that has copper. The FBI website lists electrical substations, cellular towers, telephone landlines, railroads, water wells, construction sites, and vacant homes as common targets for copper theft.

Once the thief breaks in, they begin stealing the copper. If they are inside a house or building, this can involve smashing holes into walls to gain access to the copper wiring and piping that they are interested in.

Once the copper is exposed, the thief will rip it out of the walls either by hand or with the help of tools such as wrenches, hammers, etc. If the thief happens to be burglarizing a construction site, they may not even need to do this, as building materials are often stacked and left out overnight.

Some copper thieves are more creative, posing as construction workers or business owners to gain access to the copper and then stealing it before anybody catches on. Here is a Bloomber article explaining how thieves used painted rocks to steal $40 million of copper inTurkey.

While these thieves were part of a much more elaborate operation than your average addict breaking into an abandoned house, it is still an interesting read.

Do All Drug Addicts Steal Copper?

The answer to this question is no; not all drug addicts steal copper. Drug addicts come up with all kinds of creative and often illegal ways of making money to support their addictions.

During my time in addiction, I came across a few addicts who support their drug habits solely by stealing copper. However, this seems to be a rare occurrence.

I’ve found that most of the addicts who do steal copper view it as somewhat of a last resort option. They have other preferred methods of making quick cash, and when and if those methods fail, they may turn to stealing copper out of desperation.

Stealing copper can take a lot of physical strength. If an addict is detoxing or malnourished, they may not be physically capable and will instead rely on other methods for funding their addiction.

To learn more about the different ways that drug addicts fund their addictions check out Why Do Drug Addicts Donate Plasma


In conclusion, drug addicts steal copper to sell so they can buy drugs. An addict's primary priority is supporting their addiction. We are often unable to hold down jobs, and that is why we turn to crime to fund our habits.

Copper is a common metal and easy for a potential thief to locate. Once stolen, the addict can take the copper to a scrap metal yard and sell it for cash.

Stealing copper is a lot of work and not as common as one may think in the drug addict community. Sure it happens, but addicts are resourceful and creative. They have many ways of making money available to them, and in my experience, the majority of addicts rarely, if ever, turn to copper theft.

Aritcle by Eric Anderson

Eric Anderson is a web developer and recovering drug addict. By sharing his experience in drug addiction and recovery, he hopes to help families who have been impacted by this disease.

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