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Demi Lovato's recent overdose hit her millions of fans hard.
After six years of sobriety, Lovato revealed in her most recent single, “Sober,” that she relapsed. About a month after, she was hospitalized for an overdose on the 24th. For many people who have never struggled with addiction, the quick ascend from a relapse to overdose in the span of possibly a few months is shocking. Many devout fans of Lovato were most surprised learning that her six years of sobriety came to an abrupt end. However, the complex disease of addiction never ends once someone is diagnosed.
The disease of addiction stays with those who struggle with it their entire lives. Considering Demi Lovato’s struggles, the end to a six year sobriety is not uncommon. After five years of sobriety, the chances of relapsing are around 15 percent (Psychology Today 2014). However, when those who struggle with addiction also have mental illness(es) or experience traumatic life events, the likelihood increases. Lovato’s struggle with bipolar disorder and bulimia put her risk even higher.
In her Youtube documentary released in 2017, Simply Complicated, Lovato reveals her struggles with drugs and her difficult relationship with food. Her struggle with bulimia caused her to fear food and diminished her self image. While her mental health was suffering, she was using drugs such as cocaine, adderall, and alcohol—just to name a few. Many of her close friends and family members reported her anger to be incredibly elevated during this time. She finally broke and entered rehab in late 2010, starting her journey in treating her bipolar disorder, bulimia, and addiction.
Once clean, her struggles with her mental health never left. But she simply, like many addicts, is forced to find a new way to deal with her hardships. Something that makes the struggle so incredibly difficult is that addiction literally rewires your brain and its natural reward system, making it so incredibly difficult to get clean (National Institute on Drug Abuse 2018). And if an addict relapses, they exponentially increase to the amount of use that was at their highest peak, causing their body to quickly overdose.
Many believe that those who fall into the hell of addiction are only able to blame themselves, but as Psychology Today states: “Addiction is a disease, not a free choice.” For the many who judge the “crackheads” and “junkies,” take a look in the mirror. While millions are able to socially drink and possibly experiment with drugs in their youth, others are unable to simply experiment in the use of alcohol or narcotics. This is not always by choice. Many are more prone to addiction from their genetics, or they use drugs to mask traumas and issues in their lives. In Lovato's case, her biological father also struggled with addiction and mental illness, increasing her likelihood to suffer from both. Also, in many lower-income communities, drugs are not a way of life but more of the way of life. The stigma is even more apparent in the workplace. In a 2014 study done by Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Americans were more likely to have negative views of those with addiction than those struggling with mental illness. It was found that 62 percent of participants would work with someone with a mental illness compared to 22 percent of who would work with someone who struggled with substance abuse.
Addiction in this time is no longer solely alcohol or narcotics. Do a quick web search of “social media addiction,” “phone addiction,” or even “sugar addiction.” The modern age is making it incredibly easy to feel a rush of dopamine, without much effort. Phones and electronics are forming how humans are developing, causing our brain's’ reward system to not find many things pleasing anymore, leading many to turn to drugs for the rush. Addiction is no longer are rare as it once was, and something that no one can ever fully recover from. In 2016, it was found that 21 million Americans struggled with drug or alcohol addiction, shedding light on a disease now more common than cancer (National Geographic 2017). Demi Lovato’s incredibly public struggle with addiction sheds light on how the struggle for addicts never ends. Hopefully, addiction will soon be viewed as what it is—a disease—not the stigma that surrounds it.