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Demi Lovato–How To Overestimate Your Knowledge Pertaining To Addiction

Written By: Anton Sawyer

Demi Lovato–How To Overestimate Your Knowledge Pertaining To Addiction

As a teenager, having been the driver in a car whose sole mission was to dump a friend of mine that had overdosed at the entrance of the emergency room before speeding away, you could say I have an extensive history with substance abuse. Always wondering if I was going to see the next year, next week, or even next day because of the absurdly dangerous situations I put myself in have allowed me a unique perspective when it comes to the topic of today's piece: Demi Lovato and their path towards addiction recovery.


In an attempt to maintain complete transparency, all research and statistical fact-checking for all articles can be found in the bibliography linked here.

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It needs to be said that even though there is some negativity present, no matter what is written here, I genuinely hope they can subdue their demons to a point where life can truly be enjoyed, and not survived. I wish zero ill towards Lovato.

However, given the massive soapbox and influence they have, it deeply saddens me that they have recently adopted a new ideology when it comes to conquering addiction; “sober sober” a.k.a. Zero tolerance.

If you are unaware of what the current score is when it comes to Lovato’s recovery, allow me to briefly catch you up.

In early 2021, Lovato came out explaining that they were using a new harm-reduction method for battling addictions called "California Sober." Instead of a zero-tolerance policy embraced by some 12-step programs, California Sober is about risk reduction by allowing smaller amounts of substances that aren't problematic to the addict to be used in moderation. Something like a small amount of marijuana use or the occasional drink or two is accepted all in the attempts at avoiding the life-wreckers such as heroin or meth.

Demi Lovato is no longer California sober.

The 29-year-old singer took to their Instagram Story in December of 2021–just a mere few months after I wrote an article applauding their innovative efforts when it comes to risk reduction–to announce that they no longer support the California Sober lifestyle, and instead are "sober sober." They wrote, "I no longer support my 'California sober' ways. Sober sober is the only way to be."

Since then it has been made clear that they have adopted a no-tolerance policy when it comes to any drugs and alcohol.

So is this article just me am baking a delicious pie from a ripe harvest of sour grapes?


The issue I have with all of this stems from the fact that I understand where Lovato is coming from, and how seductive the 12-Step method recovery plan can be. A lot of it is predicated on arrogance and weaponizing sobriety. There have been times I've adopted this technique to great effect. At its core, it’s using the time you’ve had clean as a measuring stick of your self-worth and in effect placing a number next to your name as a device to assess value. True, not ALL 12-Step programs are like this, and I have known people who’ve used them to great success. My viewpoint stems from watching this play out in literally every single one I had been involved with throughout my years of drug addiction.

But this is where Lovato is, I believe, in their recovery journey. That by carrying a holier-than-thou attitude when it comes to length and method of sobriety, it equates to value that is tangible. This ideology also has a great bedfellow with the "tough as nails" approach as well. If you've ever been to an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting that has old-timers peppered throughout, you know exactly what I mean. They tend to be wrathful and set in their ways, using the length of time they've been clean as a means of gatekeeping.

It's either this theory or the possibility that they (or someone in their management) weren't happy about the backlash received from their comments about embracing the California Sober lifestyle. It's entirely possible that Lovato’s bottom line was getting impacted to a degree that made the right people uncomfortable.

No matter what the reason for their about-face is, it definitely isn’t based on scientific realities.

In a 2021 Harvard Medical study about the therapeutic realities of potential therapies that fall under the harm reduction umbrella, using Suboxone as the example, it was found that Suboxone (a combination medication containing buprenorphine and naloxone) is one of the main medications used to treat opioid addiction effectively. Suboxone works by tightly binding to the same receptors in the brain as other opiates, such as heroin, morphine, and oxycodone. By doing so, it blunts intoxication with these other drugs, prevents cravings, and allows many people to transition back from a life of addiction to a life of normalcy and safety. Using "medications for opioid use disorder" is known as MOUD. The use of MOUD has been shown to lower the risk of fatal overdoses by approximately 50%. It also reduces the risk of nonfatal overdoses which are traumatic and medically dangerous.

Though I would completely support using Suboxone as a therapeutic method for getting off of opioids, both Lovato and their ilk would fervently disagree. Remember the tough-as-nails approach I mentioned earlier?

12-step purists–whether the addiction is alcohol, narcotics, etc.–will oftentimes blast the idea of using a crutch as a means to recovery, calling it “cheating.” That only through true suffering can clarity be achieved. As someone who has used both approaches when it comes to getting off of various substances in my life, I will ALWAYS take the crutch approach.

The first drug I ever quit which had thoroughly wreaked havoc on my life was meth at around age 21. This was done using the cold-turkey method. I can safely say that the withdrawals I went through had such intense elements of physical pain that my mind has blocked out a lot of it. I know the chills, body pains, insomnia, not being able to consume water without my body rejecting it in any way it saw fit were all present. But at this point, it's nothing more than flashes.

I guess the mind does funny things?

Conversely, when I was quitting opioids in the mid-2010s, I had the help of a doctor who slowly helped me wean down over a two-year period, along with taking kratom as a backup. Through this method, I have been able to quit destroying my life with opioids for a few years now. Sometimes I slip up, but those mistakes are never to the point where my entire existence is nothing more than a train ride straight into Disney-Hell.

The science and surrounding evidence show that there is no clear-cut answer when it comes to stave off the horrors that can come from an addiction; both to the addict and those that get swept up in its tornado. What is sickening is the way Lovato is using the power they have to grossly oversimplify an incredibly complex issue. It’s more than likely that their fans who have struggled with addiction and found help with the California Sober method advertised by Lovato may switch over to the zero-tolerance method (again because of Lovato) and find that it’s done nothing more than bring about relapse or low self-worth due to the inability of the person to follow such stringent rules and regulations.

I guess the good news is in the fact that Lovato can’t be tied down to facts and relevance. This means in another six months there’s going to be some new method that she’s going to peddle to those who don’t know any better. So there’s always something to look forward to I guess?


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