In June, singer-songwriter Demi Lovato did what she does best: she delivered a powerful, emotionally-charged performance, in Lisbon, Portugal, where she sang a rendition of her song “Sober.” The lyrics are an apologetic admission of a relapse; Lovato, who for years has battled substance use in addition to depression and bipolar disorder, was at the time six-years sober. On Tuesday, July 24, one month after she posted a clip of her singing “Sober,” she was treated for an “apparent overdose” which has yet to be confirmed.

Lovato was reportedly administered the overdose prevention drug Narcan before being hospitalized. She is now in stable condition.

There are many lessons to be taken from Lovato’s experience which we can apply to our own lives and the lives of those around us. Cries for help and warning signs of relapse can sometimes be difficult to detect. But knowing what to look for could ultimately save someone’s life.

Warning Signs

According to TMZ, Lovato’s friends saw distressing changes in her that made them think she might be on the brink of renewing her substance use. “They say the signs became more alarming as the days passed, and one friend says he knew for weeks she was in the danger zone … when he saw her this week it was apparent she was in trouble.”

In addition, TMZ reports she had a falling out with her sober coach.

These and the following behaviors are indicative of a potential relapse:

Change in Attitudes, Thoughts, Feelings and Actions

According to a study supported by National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism grants, negative emotional states like anxiety, depression, frustration, and boredom, referred to as intrapersonal high-risk situations, are associated with the highest rate of relapse. “These emotional states may be caused by primarily intrapersonal perceptions of certain situations (e.g., feeling bored or lonely after coming home from work to an empty house) or by reactions to environmental events (e.g., feeling angry about an impending layoff at work).”

Romanticizing Substance Use

Some individuals in recovery may reminisce about their former days using substances. Remembering those dark days as though they were good times can be dangerous. The support network American Addition Centers notes “It’s easy for an addicted individual to remember only the positives of their abuse and forget all the anguish it may have caused them.”

Physical Changes

Anything from weight loss to wearing dirty clothes can be a red flag. The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence says physical symptoms can include “flushed skin and broken capillaries on the face; a husky voice; trembling hands; bloody or black/tarry stools or vomiting blood; chronic diarrhea,” as well as “serious changes or deterioration in hygiene or physical appearance – lack of showering, slovenly appearance, unclean clothes.”

Breakdown of Social Structures

The onset of a relapse can sometimes be caused by feelings of hopelessness and isolation. Whether you have a falling out with your friends, family, counseling group, or sobriety coach, a breakdown of social structures can amplify these feelings of seclusion. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM–5), points to the “failure to fulfill major role obligations at work, school, or home” as a telltale sign someone might be on the verge of reverting back to substance use.

The Gándara Center is dedicated to providing comprehensive recovery services. From residential recovery homes specifically for women, men, or young adults; to outpatient addiction programs to peer-to-peer support, Gándara Center is committed to providing safe, secure, and healthy pathways for recovery.

If you or someone you know would benefit from our recovery programs, or is showing signs of a likely relapse, visit our website or contact us today and learn which services may best suit your needs.

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