The illness of addiction is grossly misunderstood by the average American, but its effects are felt by nearly everybody in the United States today. Tragically, the US leads the world in drug usage and addiction, with opioids, in particular, wreaking havoc on our citizens.

In 2016, there were a record 64,000 deaths due to drug overdoses and that number is continuing to grow. It is so severe that most Americans are affected by it in one way or another, either personally or through friends and family. One of the sobering realities of this crisis as well is that nobody is safe from its clutches.

Earlier this week, childhood Disney star Demi Lovato scared fans across the country when it was announced she was hospitalized for a drug overdose from which she remains hospitalized for even now a week later.

Demi Lovato

The soon-to-be 26-year-old actress and singer has sparked discussion and debate about the issue after being rushed to the hospital on July 24th of what appeared to be a drug overdose. At 11:22 that morning, the Los Angeles Fire Department received a 911 call concerning what appeared to be a drug overdose.

The singer was rushed to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, where she was stabilized. However, a week later she is still being kept due to complications that have arisen since then. Despite these complications which include nausea, vomiting, and a high fever, she is expected to make a full recovery. The incident has worried fans and prompted discussion as to the extent of addiction and whether or not it is being addressed adequately.

The singer has publicly suffered from addictions to cocaine and alcohol, as well as mental health issues and an eating disorder for years. She has entered rehab for these issues, as well as attended AA meetings, but like many addicts, the road to recovery often includes relapse. While it is unknown exactly which drug is responsible for this hospitalization, initial reports of heroin have been vehemently denied by sources close to the singer.

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Regardless of the drug at fault, the incident has prompted further discussion on the extent of the drug epidemic and whether or not we are doing everything possible to address it. While the singer is going to be seeking further treatment after she is released from the hospital, the only way we will be able to avoid such incidents in the future is to address the issue at its core.

The subject has been poorly understood for years now, and many people continue to believe and spread misinformation. Doctors now understand that it is a disease, and it must be addressed in the same way we would address cancer or genetic disorders. In fact, there is evidence that addiction has a significant genetic component.

The arcane method of placing someone in a sanitarium only removes the sufferers from society but does nothing to address the illness itself. Public perceptions have greatly slowed the progress of finding new and effective treatments with a significant percentage of the population insisting it is a “choice”.

As tragic as the singer’s overdose is it has at least prompted further significant discussion as to how many more people must be hospitalized or die before as a whole, we funnel more money and energy towards finding the most effective treatments so that sufferers may regain a normal and healthy life.