Are you or someone you know struggling with co-occurring kleptomania and substance abuse? Learn about how these two conditions are related and how they can be treated.

Substance abuse often co-occurs and mingles with mental conditions such as kleptomania. There are many similarities between addiction and kleptomania as well as overlapping treatments. As one example, individuals with kleptomania may develop substance use disorders as a means of coping with their guilt or uncontrollable desire to steal items with little monetary value. Addiction and kleptomania can both involve compulsions, uncontrollable desires and the pursuance of pleasure-seeking behaviors. 

Individuals struggling with both kleptomania and substance abuse may have great difficulties at establishing healthy boundaries. They may act on their desires regardless of the negative consequences of their actions on themselves or their loved ones. It is important for individuals struggling with both substance abuse and kleptomania to realize that these conditions can be treated together. While there may be no specific cure for kleptomania or substance use disorders, learning effective coping strategies or using prescribed medication can significantly improve the lives of impacted individuals. 

Family History of Substance Abuse and Kleptomania Risk

There are a few different risk factors associated with kleptomania, though the condition is quite rare in the general population. According to findings from the Mayo Clinic, individuals that either have a close relative (e.g. first-degree relative or a parent or sibling) with kleptomania, a substance use disorder or obsessive-compulsive disorder are at higher risk for developing the condition. Similarly, another risk factor associated with the development of kleptomania is having another mental health condition like bipolar disorder, an eating disorder or anxiety.  

Although the exact causes of kleptomania are unknown, research suggests that kleptomania may be closely related to mood and anxiety disorders. It is important to remember that individuals that struggle with kleptomania and substance abuse are not necessarily “bad” people. Having these both mental health conditions cannot be likened to simple character flaws, as they are complex and multifaceted diseases. 

Correlation Between Drug Use and Kleptomania

As it currently stands, more research must be conducted in order to show a correlation between drug use and kleptomania. Nevertheless, preliminary research suggests that kleptomania and substance use disorders are closely related in more ways than one. Namely, in a study conducted in 2010, researchers noticed that individuals with kleptomania or a substance abuse disorder responded well to specific treatments. In addition, researchers found that substance use disorders and kleptomania can both be brought about by similar risk factors and experiences. In another study conducted in 2011, researchers found that kleptomania is itself an addictive behavior, just like an addiction to a drug. 

Kleptomania has been directly studied in relation to nicotine and alcohol addiction. Like these addictions, it is possible that the root cause(s) of kleptomania involve dysregulated brain signaling pathways. For example, in other impulse control disorders, it has been speculated that low levels of the neurotransmitter, serotonin, are common. Individuals with kleptomania and substance use disorders seek the pleasurable feelings with dopamine release every time they steal or use their drug of choice. Finally, individuals with kleptomania and substance use disorders may have a dysregulated opioid system, ultimately making it hard to resist stealing or using a drug. 

Treating Kleptomania and Co-Occurring Substance Use Disorders

Kleptomania treatments significantly overlap with that of substance use disorders. There are several treatment options for kleptomania and co-occurring drug addiction. For example, naltrexone is an opioid antagonist that can be used to treat kleptomania and other drug addictions. Naltrexone for kleptomania or for drug addiction may reduce impulsive symptoms associated with these conditions. Alternatively, a class of drugs known as anticonvulsants, have been effective at treating mental health conditions such as binge eating and kleptomania. 

If you or a loved one struggle with kleptomania and a co-occurring addiction, The Recovery Village can help. Contact a representative today to discuss treatment options for kleptomania and addiction together.

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Editor – Daron Christopher
Daron Christopher is an experienced speechwriter, copywriter and communications consultant based in Washington, DC. Read more
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Medically Reviewed By – Dr. Bonnie Bullock, PHD
Bonnie is a medical communications specialist at Boston Strategic Partners, a global health industry consulting firm. Her recent work in mental health includes developing conference materials for clinical studies in mood disorders and copy-editing clinical manuscripts. Read more

Farid, Talih. “Kleptomania and Potential Exacerbating F[…]view and Case Report.” Innov Clin Neurosci., October 2011. Accessed August 1, 2019.

Grant, Jon; Odlaug, Brain; Kim, Suck Won. “Kleptomania: Clinical Characteristics an[…]stance Use Disorders.” The American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse, June 2010. Accessed August 1.

The Mayo Clinic. “Kleptomania.” October 21, 2017. Accessed August 1, 2019.

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. “5.1 Naltrexone.” (n.d.) Accessed August 1, 2019.

Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.