Demi Lovato stable after ‘opioid overdose’

Success: Lovato scored her first UK number one in June featuring on Clean Bandit’s Solo.

Can childhood fame ruin your life? The former Disney star was found unconscious at her home after a long battle with addiction. She is not the first young star to struggle in the spotlight.

“I’m sorry I’m here again. I promise I’ll get help,” sang Demi Lovato on her most recent single, Sober. A month later, she is recovering from a suspected opioid overdose in a Los Angeles hospital.

The 25-year-old singer-songwriter and former child star was found unconscious in her home on Tuesday and treated at the scene with an antidote. She is now “awake and with her family”.

Lovato started acting at the age of seven and achieved international fame in her teens on the Disney Channel. Her overdose came after a long battle with drugs, alcohol and mental health issues, which came to light in 2010 when she dropped out of a tour with the Jonas Brothers and entered rehab aged just 18. In March, she celebrated six years of sobriety but had relapsed in recent weeks.

The star has spoken out about the challenges of growing up in the public eye: “You’re expected to figure out who you are very fast in front of the entire world.” She also described feeling under immense pressure “to be the best of the best”.

This is a common problem. Psychologists say early fame can reverse the relationship between parent and child, as the child becomes the family’s main source of income. This can lead to problems if the parents fail to impose boundaries for their child, who will likely be exposed to alcohol and drugs at a young age.

Children typically learn to navigate stressful situations through play with their peers, but child stars often miss out on this crucial interaction, which can leave them with problems relating to others.

Lovato, however, says her issues with food and suicidal thoughts developed before she started acting, stemming from her relationship with her father. “I guess I always searched for what he found in drugs and alcohol because it fulfilled him and he chose that over a family.”

Celebrities are far from the only people to face addiction. The US is currently in the grip of an opioid epidemic, with 115 Americans dying from opioid overdoses every day.

Does childhood fame ruin lives?

Rising Star

It can have a disastrous impact, say some. The entertainment industry may seem glamorous, but we are still talking about children who have a job, with all the associated pressures and responsibilities. A famous child may feel splintered between a public image and their real personality. It’s no wonder so many struggle to cope.

It’s more complicated than that, argue others. Addiction is a disease with many possible causes, from family history to poor mental health care, as demonstrated by the crisis in the US. Early fame clearly poses challenges to the young mind but, like many hurdles in life, these can often be overcome with support and constructive choices.

You Decide

  1. Would you like to be famous?
  2. Why do so many child stars seem to struggle later in life?

Activities

  1. Write down three pros and three cons of being famous as a child. Discuss your list in a group.
  2. Research the opioid epidemic in the US. Create a five question, multiple choice quiz using statistics you find.

Some People Say...

“I’ve never really felt like I was a child actor. Just an actor who happened to be quite young.”

Saoirse Ronan

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
Demi Lovato suffered a suspected overdose on Tuesday. She was found in her home and was given medication which helped her to breathe. She is now conscious and with her family. Last month, she cancelled a show at London’s O2 arena hours before it was due to begin, spurring rumours that she was no longer sober.
What do we not know?
Exactly what Lovato overdosed on. Initial reports stated she had taken heroin but that was later denied by a source close to the star. We do not know the extent to which the pressures of early stardom contributed to Lovato’s addiction and mental health issues. In past interviews, she has discussed both her struggles with fame as a child and the role her difficult relationship with her father played.

Word Watch

Opioid overdose
A group of painkilling drugs that includes legal drugs used for medicinal purposes, such as morphine, and illegal drugs, such as heroin. They are very powerful and therefore can be highly dangerous.
Rehab
A course of treatment for drug or alcohol dependence, typically at a facility where patients live temporarily.
Sobriety
The state of being sober, when one has given up consuming alcohol and drugs.
Issues with food
Lovato has suffered from the eating disorder bulimia since childhood.
115 Americans
More than 250,000 Americans have died of opioid overdoses in the past decade. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, in 2014, over seven million Americans battled a drug use disorder.
Often
Emma Watson, Natalie Portman and Leonardo DiCaprio are examples of actors who smoothly transitioned from child stars into adult celebrities.

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