Demi Lovato's Overdose, Her Song "Sober," & the Disease of Addiction

demi lovato addiction

Addiction is a chronic, relapsing disease. Recovery is a lifelong journey. None of it is easy. And singer-songwriter Demi Lovato knows this first-hand.

We’ve shared Demi Lovato’s story and struggles with addiction before – The beloved musician has been battling substance abuse, mental health, and eating disorders since she was young. And from the start, Lovato has been very honest with her fans about her recovery, including the bumps (relapses) that have happened along the way.

Demi Lovato just celebrated six years of sobriety this past March. In April, rumors of a suspected relapse started circling. And just a couple months later, on June 21, Demi Lovato debuted her new song, “Sober,” a heartbreaking ballad disclosing she’s “not sober anymore.” Still, not many – even loved ones – saw an overdose brewing.

Momma, I'm so sorry I'm not sober anymore / And daddy, please forgive me for the drinks spilled on the floor / To the ones who never left me / We've been down this road before / I'm so sorry, I'm not sober anymore

On July 24th, 2018, Demi Lovato was rushed to the hospital for an apparent opioid overdose. After being found unconscious in her home, the 25-year-old singer was revived with Narcan, an antidote designed to reverse the effects of an opioid overdose. She remained in the hospital for two weeks due to health complications, and was discharged this past Saturday, August 4th. Lovato reportedly went directly to an inpatient rehab facility upon her release.

The details of Demi Lovato’s overdose are still somewhat ambiguous. We know that she overdosed on some variety of opiate drugs – whether it was heroin, prescription painkillers, or an opioid taken inadvertently with another substance, is still unknown. No matter the drug, though, all opiates carry a similar potential for overdose. Opiates – legal and illegal – can lead a user into respiratory depression, coma, brain damage, and death.

We also know that Demi Lovato had a tough couple of months leading up to what sources call a “binger” – partying the entire night of July 23rd, and the subsequent overdose on July 24th. At the time, Lovato was with a group of new friends. This is a classic sign of a substance addiction – a change in social circles. One source told PEOPLE magazine, “The people she has been hanging around lately aren’t her real friends; they don’t have her best interests at heart. She’s pushed her true friends away.”

Her true friends are the ones who kept her away from drugs, who encouraged her sobriety. And her team kept her on a tightly regulated schedule and under close watch. However, the pressure eventually became a lot for Lovato to handle. She slowly started breaking away from her friends and daily regime.

I'm sorry for the fans I lost / Who watched me fall again / I wanna be a role model / But I'm only human

A Note on Opioid Overdose

Anyone, at any age or time, both new users and seasoned ones, can overdose on drugs. Opioids are especially dangerous and carry a very high potential for overdose. There are many causes of an overdose. In long-term users, it is often because they have developed a tolerance to a drug, and increase their dosage over time to achieve the same effects. They may feel they can handle taking more of the drug, when their body then decides it’s too much. However, this is not always the case. Sometimes, drugs are laced with very potent opioids like fentanyl, which can cause a person to overdose much more quickly, from much smaller amounts.

And often, a person who is off-and-on using drugs like Demi Lovato, will believe that they can pick back up where they left off in terms of drug use. Yet if a person uses as much of the drug as they did before quitting, “they can easily overdose because their bodies are no longer adapted to their previous level of drug exposure,” says the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). There is truly no predicting when a person will overdose on drugs.

A Relapsing Disease

Addiction is a disease that physiologically alters a user’s brain. It takes over their self-control, their ability to make rational decisions, their behaviors, as well as their mental and physical health. It is extremely hard to defeat on one’s own. And even while sober and in recovery, a person must continue to fight the disease of addiction. Every single day, that person must choose to make healthy decisions and resist cravings for drugs and alcohol.

After Demi Lovato’s drug overdose, she released the following statement on her Instagram. “I have always been transparent about my journey with addiction. What I’ve learned is that this illness is not something that disappears or fades with time. It is something I must continue to overcome and have not done yet.”

On the outside looking in, some people might feel as though Demi Lovato was “weak” for letting this happen. Some people might see her relapse as a choice. The truth is, addiction is not a choice. It is a chronic, relapsing disease, similar to asthma, type II diabetes, cancer, and cardiovascular disease. As the NIDA states, “Relapse rates for drug use are similar to rates for other chronic medical illnesses. If people stop following their medical treatment plan, they are likely to relapse.”

That said, a relapse does not indicate that a person has failed. It does not indicate that their past treatment has failed, either. Demi Lovato had gone through drug rehab and resided in a sober living home before. Her recent relapse and overdose do not mean that it was a bad program. Rather, it means that she needs to speak with her doctor or counselor about resuming treatment, modifying her recovery plan, or trying another approach.

It is the chronic nature of addiction that can lead a person back into using drugs. As unfortunate as it is, relapse is often a part of the recovery process – however, evidence-based drug treatment programs (such as Turnbridge) are designed to help with relapse prevention. What Demi Lovato needs now is a treatment program that can help her understand the root of her addiction even further, and to help her change deeply-rooted behaviors that cause her to turn to drugs. This may involve changing how she responds to pressure, to complex emotions like depression, and to cravings triggered by certain environments around her.

I'm sorry that I'm here again / I promise I'll get help / It wasn't my intention / I'm sorry to myself

The good news is that addiction is a very manageable, very treatable disease. When a person finds the right treatment and sober living program, he or she can learn to handle stressful situations and various triggers that might lead to relapse. Long-term, inpatient treatment is typically recommended for those battling opioid addiction. In fact, the NIDA suggests that treatment longer than 90 days leads to the best recovery outcomes.

Integrated, dual diagnosis treatment is also recommended for people like Demi Lovato, who struggle with issues beyond drug addiction. As we know from her YouTube documentary “Simply Complicated,” Lovato also battles bipolar disorder, self-harm, body image issues, and depression. She requires inpatient, dual diagnosis treatment that addresses all of her co-occurring disorders. Healing can only occur if treatment addresses the whole person, including other factors and disorders that may be contributing to their drug abuse. Learn more about dual diagnosis here.

Demi Lovato made the choice to return to addiction treatment, at an inpatient facility outside California. The star left her fans with this note: “I now need time to heal and focus on my sobriety and road to recovery. The love you have all shown me will never be forgotten and I look forward to the day where I can say I came out on the other side. I will keep fighting.”

Demi Lovato is just one of the many famous women in recovery. Many female celebrities have fought through the dark toils of drug abuse and struggled with sobriety. Many have also accomplished years of sobriety and successfully completed addiction treatment programs. If you are a young woman battling substance addiction, know that you are not alone – even if it may feel like you are the only one hurting, know that there are many other women fighting a similar fight, every day. And while addiction is an ongoing disease, it is also very treatable. Turnbridge can help you get through this. You do not have to navigate recovery on your own.

If you or someone you love is struggling with drug problems, please do not be afraid to ask for help. Do not struggle in silence. Let a loved one know what is going on. Talk to a professional, a counselor, a doctor, a friend. For more information, call 877-581-1793 or visit us online to learn more about our inpatient treatment programs for young women.