Court to rule on whether relapse by an addicted opioid user should be a crime

Julie Eldred has been struggling with addiction to opioids for more than a decade and she says the criminal justice system punishes her for it.

Eldred, a part-time pet caretaker in Acton, Mass., was put on probation last year for theft. She knew staying drug-free would be tough — especially at first, when she was going through opioid withdrawal. But, she says, she didn’t have much of a choice.

“I was in the midst of active addiction, so I was actively using. But you’re forced to go into this saying I’ll be drug-free or you go to jail,” Eldred says.

She complied with her probation conditions, she says — she found outpatient treatment, addiction medication and a therapist — but she failed a drug test. Eldred told her probation officer that she had just started treatment and had relapsed, but was now back on track.