The science is clear: Drug addiction is actually a disease — just like many other diseases that expose the frailty of the human condition. It’s still not entirely clear why some people rapidly get caught up in a cycle of drug abuse and others do not, but the government’s own research bears out the assertion that addiction isn’t something that is under any given individual’s control.

Despite all the advances in the scientific understanding of addiction, however, law enforcement authorities still tend to treat drug addicts with derision. Take, for example, the case of a 30-year old woman who died in Massachusetts police custody despite begging for medical care. Officers in the jail where she was placed after being picked up on outstanding warrants responded to her pleas for water and medical treatment with scorn. They told her that she had no one but herself to blame for her condition because it “was her own fault for using drugs.”

The young woman’s family said that she had struggled with addiction, periodically getting sober only to fall back in the grip of her illness. When she died, she was suffering from what doctors described as a treatable heart infection — making her death utterly senseless. Like many other addicts who get caught up in the legal system, she was blamed for a disease that she couldn’t control.

The punishment seldom fits the crime where drug addiction is concerned. It’s far better to divert someone with an addiction into a treatment program whenever possible. If you have been charged with a drug crime related to your addiction or a loved one has been charged, don’t rely on the authorities to do what’s right. Get an experienced defense attorney’s assistance as soon as possible to best protect your future.