On July 24th, 2018, at age 25, Demi Lovato was rushed to the hospital for overdosing on a dangerous mix of opioid drugs, heroin, and fentanyl. This article will delve into the context of what happened that night and how it occurred. What led to Demi Lovato’s drug addiction? What caused her overdose? And how did Demi recover and make her comeback?
Background to Demi Lovato’s Drug Addiction
Many factors in Demi Lovato’s life paved the way to her near death. Demi had a history of sexual abuse - being raped as a teenager by someone she knew, an eating disorder as well as a negative self-image, self-harm, and family trauma.
Studies  have shown that a history of interpersonal trauma increases the risk for substance abuse. And substance abuse increases the risk of interpersonal trauma. Let’s unpack this a bit to examine why this connection exists between these two things. A history of interpersonal trauma, such as being abused at a young age or undergoing other challenging life circumstances, can cause a person to carry around the pain throughout their lives. When abuse either goes unnoticed or is not addressed and dealt with sufficiently, instead of a person having the opportunity to work through and release their pain, they internalize it instead. This can in turn lead to feelings of self-loathing or a confused sense of identity. Sadly, there is sometimes also a stigma (either coming from the outside or perceived from within) that accompanies abuse. This can prevent a person from talking about it and getting the help they need.
Many turn to drugs and alcohol as a form of self-medication to help them cope with their inner struggles. Demi explained, “In the same way [my addiction] almost killed me, it saved my life at times, because there were times that I dealt with suicidal ideations,” she said. “Had I gone forward with that in that moment, instead of another destructive coping mechanism, I wouldn’t be here to tell my story.”
This phenomenon also works the other way around - substance abuse increases the risk of interpersonal trauma. When a person is under the influence of drugs, their decision-making process is impaired, weakening their ability to make informed and rational decisions. This increases the likelihood of someone using drugs to be manipulated and abused by other people, which, as we will see, happened on the night of Demi’s overdose.
The Calm Before the Storm
Before Demi’s big downfall, she actually spent six years sober. Her relapse to hard drugs was something that many around her did not see coming. Her sister explained, “Demi is very good at hiding what she needs to hide.” Even though those around us might seem fine and functional on the outside, we never truly know what a person is going through or how they might be feeling internally. It is important to remember that drug addictions aren’t always clearly apparent, with addicts often taking steps to conceal their addictive behaviors from their loved ones.
In addition, while the first time a person starts taking drugs, it may be a conscious decision on their part, once it turns into an addiction, the addict no longer has a choice. Addiction is a brain disorder that creates lasting chemical changes in the brain. Addictive behavior becomes compulsive and truly uncontrollable.
What Happened the Night of Demi Lovato’s Overdose?
The leadup to Demi’s overdose and what she overdosed on has become clear over time. The night of Demi Lovato’s overdose, she went partying with friends. Once she returned home, she called her drug dealer, who gave her a substance later understood to be heroin laced with fentanyl.
Fentanyl is approximately 100 times more potent than morphine  and 50 times more potent than heroin as an analgesic (a drug used to relieve pain), making it one of the most highly addictive and lethal drugs out there. Drug dealers add fentanyl to drugs in order to give users a more significant “high”. Due to its high potency, the smallest amount of fentanyl – about .25mg or a grain of salt, which is barely visible to the human eye – can be fatal for a user, giving it an incredibly high overdose potential. The CDC reports that in America, over 150 people die every day from overdoses related to synthetic opioids like fentanyl .
As well as giving Demi the lethal drugs, her dealer also sexually abused her the night of her overdose. As Demi was high on the drug cocktail, she could not give her consent and had an unclear recollection of the event once she regained consciousness. Demi Lovato recounts, “When they found me, I was naked, blue. I was literally left for dead after he took advantage of me.”
After being found unconscious in her Los Angeles home, Demi was taken to an intensive care unit and was revived with Narcan (the brand name for Naloxone), a medication used to reverse or reduce the effects of opioids. The National Institute on Drug Abuse explains that Naloxone is an opioid antagonist. This means that it attaches to opioid receptors and reverses and blocks the effects of other opioids. It can quickly restore normal breathing to a person if their breathing has slowed or stopped because of an opioid overdose. Demi was in such a dire physical state that she later recounted to a friend that her doctors thought she only had five to ten more minutes to live.
She remained in the hospital for two weeks due to health complications. It caused three strokes, a heart attack, and organ failure. She had pneumonia from asphyxiating on her vomit; she suffered brain damage from the strokes. Upon release, she reportedly went directly to an inpatient rehab facility until she was stable enough to return to her regular life.
Lasting Effects of Demi Lovato’s Drugs Saga
Many people are unaware that illicit drugs can have adverse effects on one’s vision, ranging from vision loss and subnormal vision to partial blindness and even complete blindness in some circumstances. When Demi Lovato woke up in intensive care, she was classified as in a legally blind state, although after two months, she recovered enough sight to be able to read a book. While her vision did improve over time, she was left with lasting vision problems from her overdose. One of the main practical consequences of this is that she can no longer drive due to her impaired vision, and she has described the lingering effects as resembling sunspots. Despite the disruption those effects have caused on her life today, she sees them as “reminders” of what could happen if she gets into a dark place again.
Lessons to Learn From Demi Lovato’s Overdose
Lovato is not substance-free: She permits herself weed and alcohol in moderation and recognizes that she’ll get blowback for sharing her unconventional approach, which she firmly acknowledges isn’t for everyone.
1. Personalize Your Recovery Road
Recovery doesn’t look exactly the same for everyone - some people will find it easier to go “cold turkey”, practice teetotalism, and remove all traces and temptations of drugs and alcohol from their lives. Others will take a slower approach, working at gradually weaning themselves off the sources of their addictions over a longer period. The important thing when making a decision is that a person is guided by medical professionals and personal mentors who can explain the relative advantages and downsides of either option, and provide support throughout. Being monitored in one’s journey of recovery means that therapists and addiction coaches can be at hand should anything take a turn for the worse.
2. Accept Your Limitations
Self-acceptance is also a key factor on the road to recovery, and it comes from recognizing our limitations rather than trying to cover them up. Scooter Braun, Demi’s manager, urged her to think of herself as a “real model,” rather than a role model. “You want to tell the truth. And you’re constantly learning,” he said. “No one can live up to the expectation of perfection.” It is important for a person to be real and honest with themselves about their failings. While taking a penetrating look at ourselves in the mirror can be hard and unsettling, sometimes it’s the only way to grow and move forward. A person also needs to have compassion for themselves while making sure they balance this compassion with a proactive desire to change and break out of old habits.
3. Find Healthy Routes to Happiness
Another important component of living a life free of addiction is finding things that contribute to a person’s health and happiness. Demi found that meditation helps her feel closer to nature, manage strong emotions and build good habits. Often, a person will turn to substance abuse to fill a void. Having sessions with a therapist can help a person address this feeling of lack in their lives, and the therapist can help guide them on how to fill it in a positive and constructive way.
Learn from Demi Lovato's Overdose
If you are battling through drug addiction like Demi Lovato, or know someone who is, it’s important to remember that you’re not alone, and there is no need to hide your struggles. No matter what challenges you’ve faced in the past, they don’t determine the future, and anyone can attain lasting sobriety! There are no shortcuts when it comes to recovery from addiction, but at Avenues Recovery, we’re here to guide you through every step of the way. Don’t hesitate to contact us today.