By Charlotte Alter
March 20, 2015

The attorney for a former FBI agent who plans to plead guilty to 64 criminal counts for stealing heroin from evidence bags said that his client took the drugs to treat his ulcer pain.

Matthew Lowry, 33, was found unconscious in his car at the end of September after a heroin overdose and later admitted to stealing heroin from evidence rooms. The evidence tampering resulted in the dismissal of more than two dozen federal drug cases, the Washington Post reports.

“Matt Lowry is devastated by the consequences of his conduct, particularly as it has affected the drug investigations that he, his fellow law enforcement officers, and prosecutors had spent so much time developing and pursuing,” his attorney Robert C. Bonsib said in a statement.

But Bonsib also said that Lowry’s actions could be explained by a series of unfortunate medical events. According to Bonsib, Lowry turned to heroin after he got addicted to powerful pain medications used to treat his ulcerative colitis. The medication was prescribed by a doctor who did not warn Lowry about the addictive potential of the drugs, and subsequently disappeared. Lowry attempted to “go ‘cold turkey,'” Bonsib said, but “the addiction was overpowering and the pain from the ulcerative colitis was unbearable.”

“This is how Mr. Lowry turned to self-medication by the use of the drugs in this case,” Bonsib said.

Lowry, who is married and has a young son, is currently in a drug treatment program. He faces 64 federal criminal charges: 18 counts of falsification of records, 13 counts of conversion of property, 13 counts of possession of heroin and 20 counts of obstruction of justice.

Write to Charlotte Alter at charlotte.alter@time.com.

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