On July 24, 2018, singer and actress Demi Lovato was hospitalized after an apparent drug overdose.
Whatever the cause of her hospitalization, Lovato deserves compassion, not condemnation. She appears to be the visible face of a problem shared by many.
Lovato has been open about her relationship with drugs and alcohol and her other problems. In her 2017 documentary Simply Complicated, she discussed her sobriety as well as her experiences with an eating disorder. In June 2018, she released the song “Sober,” a song that revealed that she had experienced a relapse from her six-year-long sobriety.
Eating disorders and substance abuse often go hand in hand. When people have both, they have a condition known as a dual diagnosis.
Dual diagnoses are common. According to the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA), “up to 50% of individuals with eating disorders abused alcohol or illicit drugs, a rate five times higher than the general population. Up to 35% of individuals who abused or were dependent on alcohol or other drugs have also had eating disorders, a rate 11 times greater than the general population.”
Eating disorders are similar to addictions because they both produce physical and psychological effects. Treating addictions and treating eating disorders both involve more than medical intervention. Eating disorders and addictions both require psychological treatment to examine why people develop the conditions and to determine if certain factors trigger them. Otherwise, people might be susceptible to disordered eating or addiction again.
Based on these statistics, it is apparent that people often use drugs and alcohol to cope with the pain of an eating disorder. Or, they might use such substances to suppress their appetites. Either way, drug and alcohol use are often inextricably connected with eating disorders.
The complexity of substance abuse and eating disorders – and the fact that they are all so common – place Demi Lovato in a large group of people. If Lovato has had problems with her recovery, she is in another large group, a group of people who have relapsed from their sobriety.
People should not judge other people for such conditions. They are highly complex conditions shared by many, many people. People might know people who struggle with the diagnoses or might know people at risk of such struggles. They might even have these diagnoses themselves.
One hopes that Lovato is seeking help for her own struggles. Perhaps her conditions can encourage others to understand various disorders and find help for them.