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Demi Lovato: A Case Study on Mental Health and Opiate Addiction


Mental Health and Opiate Addiction

Demi Lovato's drug overdose on July 24, 2018 is indicative of the opiate addiction that is sweeping the nation resulting in 42,000 deaths in 2016 alone.  Opiate addiction and opiate overdose have reached epidemic levels in the United States and Demi Lovato is just one of the victims.

Demi Lovato's Journey with Addiction

Demi Lovato has been open about her struggles with addiction. The July 24 overdose was not the first time that Demi Lovato had struggled with drug abuse. Lovato first sought help for her addiction problems in 2010 at the age of 18. After spending time in an inpatient drug rehabilitation program, she remained sober for almost eight years.

Fans knew that Lovato was struggling when she released "Sober" in June of 2018.  The song is an apology for not being sober anymore. She describes the difficulty of being lonely and how it led to her returning to drug abuse.  She apologizes multiple times throughout the song:

  • "Momma, I'm sorry I'm not sober anymore."
  • "Daddy, please forgive me for the drinks spilled on the floor."
  • "I'm sorry for the fans I lost who watched me fall again."

Demi Lovato's drug abuse escalated leading to July 24, 2018, when an ambulance rushed to Beverley Hills to transport Lovato to Cedars Sinai for a drug overdose. After living sober for six years, Demi Lovato had returned to drugs. Demi's struggle with addiction is like many addicts who go through cycles of relapse. Sobriety is an ongoing battle.

After Demi's release from Cedars Sinai Medical Center, she posted about her recurring issues with addiction on 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" (August 5, 2018).

Demi Lovato Instagram Post about Addiction

Demi Lovato: Mental Health and Addiction

Demi Lovato's struggle with addiction is indicative of the connection between mental illness and addiction. Demi has been open about mental illness, talking about her struggles with eating disorders as well as her bipolar disorder diagnosis.  Bi-polar disorder is a mood disorder marked by quickly changing moods from mania to depression.

People with mental illness are more likely to struggle with drug abuse.  Often people aren't sure how to deal with the illness in a healthy way. They may find themselves turning to drugs to self-medicate and avoid the symptoms. People with mental illness sometimes use drugs to try to numb the pain and take the edge off.  Instead of finding ways to cope with the symptoms, they try to drown out the symptoms by using drugs.

Ongoing Opioid Epidemic

The Ongoing Opioid Epidemic

Demi Lovato's recent overdose is indicative of the larger opiate epidemic spreading across the United States.  There has been no official statement about what drug Lovato overdosed on. However, due to her previous addiction to opiates, it was likely an opiate overdose.  

What are Opiates?

An opiate is any chemical that binds to opioid receptors in your body and creates a euphoric sensation. Opiates were originally derived from the seed pods of opium poppies. There is evidence of opium use as early as 3,400 BC.  In the 1800s opiates were commonly prescribed for pain.

Today, synthetic opiates are far more common. Opiates include both prescription drugs and illegal drugs.

  • Oxycontin (Prescription with controlled release)
  • Lortab (Prescription)
  • Vicodin (Prescription)
  • Morphine (Prescription)
  • Heroine (Illegal)
  • Fentanyl (Both prescription and illegal)

What is an overdose?

An overdose is when a person ingests or administers more of a drug than the body can handle. The body has a negative reaction to the excessive amount of the drug.

When administered by a doctor the dosage can be carefully monitored. However, when people mix drugs or combine drugs, it can have an amplified effect resulting in an overdose.

Opiate Overdose Symptoms

Opiate Overdose Symptoms

People who overdose may have a variety of reactions including loss of consciousness, vomiting, confusion, slowed breathing, or even death. Opiate overdoses are dangerous because when the opioid receptors are blocked, it affects the part of the body that controls the breathing. The impact of an opiate overdose on breathing is why so many opiate overdoses end up being fatal.

Who is at risk for opiate addiction?

Opiate addiction is terrifying because it affects virtually everyone, everywhere.  Many people who are struggling with opiate addiction may seem perfectly normal. It could be the teenager next door, a grandma at the grocery store, a member of the PTA, or a college student. It affects all ages, races, and genders. 

Many people start using opiates because of an injury or surgery. Initially they are prescribed the opiates for pain management. However, people can quickly develop a dependency on opiates because they are highly addictive. The CDC found that 80% of people who are addicted to heroin started out by misusing prescription opiates

People who are addicted to opiates may look through medicine cabinets at family and friends' houses searching for opiate prescriptions. Sometimes, people will find prescription pills too expensive and may switch to heroine because it is a cheaper option. The CDC found that 80% of people that are addicted to heroin started out using prescription opiates.

Getting Help for Opioid Addiction

With the prevalence of opiate addiction, it is highly likely that you know someone who is struggling with opiate addiction. If you or someone you care about is dealing with opiate addiction, there is help available. Please call Dallas Behavioral Healthcare Hospital at 877-510-1909 to learn more about rehabilitation options for opiate addiction.  We can answer your questions and help support you as you explore your options. 

Dallas Behavioral Healthcare Hospital offers both outpatient and inpatient rehabilitation, as well as detox services depending on the severity of the addiction. Our Adult Inpatient Dual Diagnosis / Detox program combines detox with mental health therapy. Patients will be supported as they detox from opiates and receive therapy to help them learn healthy ways to deal with stress and mental illness.