The Emmy-winning HBO TV show Euphoria is a cinematic masterpiece known for its inclusivity and relatability. From the elevating, lyrical, and emotion provoking soundtrack featuring the artist Labyrinth to the storyline that is coming of age. This visually stimulating show is filmed through the perspective of 17-year-old high school student, Rue Bennett, who deals with drug addiction and mental illness. Euphoria’s intense and layered storyline portrays the troubles high school students go through. Some of these issues included drugs, abortion, sexuality, gender, and delinquency.
Euphoria is centered around Rue’s life and how she portrays the world and the people around her. Rue returns from rehab and the journey to deviant behavior picks up again because she had no intention of remaining clean. She was diagnosed with OCD, ADD, GAD, and potentially bipolar disorder when she was younger (Euphoria Wiki, 2022). Her dad passed away when she was 14 years old, and she found her escape through drugs. Rue relapsed and blamed it on her love interest, Jules Vaughn. Rue is seen using drugs such as marijuana, opioids, fentanyl, and heroin. She destroyed relationships and lied to many people. She engaged in delinquent behavior by fleeing law enforcement and her mother, getting physical with family, passing a drug test using her friend’s urine and other acts. At the end of season two, she goes through withdrawals and starts to mend the relationships she had broken. One of the most groundbreaking scenes is when Rue is speaking to her Narcotics Anonymous sponsor, Ali, on Christmas Eve. A quote that stood out was when Ali was addressing addiction:
“…That is the disease of addiction. It is a degenerative disease. It is incurable. It is deadly. And it’s no different than cancer. And you got it. Why? Mm. Luck of the draw. But, hey, but the hardest part of having the disease of addiction, aside from having the disease, is that no one in the world sees it as a disease. They see you as selfish. They see you as weak. They see you as cruel…” (Euphoria: Trouble Don’t Last Always).
Many people can use drugs and alcohol safely which makes it hard for them to understand addiction. Euphoria’s director, Sam Levinson, was a teenager and addicted to drugs himself (Entertainment Weekly, 2019). This piece of information is noteworthy because the show was inspired by Levinson’s own struggles as a juvenile. Being an adolescent is already difficult, from the heightened emotions to the constant changes they experience. Euphoria is a film that explores the lives of young people who are dealing with real life issues like addiction. Rue had access to drugs since she was friends with drug users and lived in a neighborhood with drug dealers. She would also attend parties where she would be exposed to illegal substances. Rue’s social and economic conditions allowed her drug addiction to continue. Euphoria highlights these risk factors that are common for adolescence and hard to avoid. Her immediate environment posed a risk of relapse, which was exacerbated by her refusal to stay sober. According to the Pharmacology, Biochemistry and Behavior journal by Joshua Gulley and Sari Izenwasserb, “…development of the prefrontal cortex is greatly affected by drugs during the adolescent period and that this, in turn, can contribute to the increased vulnerability to the effects of the drugs.” Euphoria focuses on the adolescent period and show how drugs have an effect on their mental and physical well-being. The effects of drugs are substantially larger at such a young age than they are at an older age. People may become considerably more relaxed about drugs as marijuana becomes more accepted in the United States. There should be an emphasis on how today’s generation views drugs differently than previous generations. Rue’s drug experiences differ from those of most individuals, making it difficult for others to comprehend her drug dependency. Hopefully, Euphoria raises awareness about what drug addiction is like and how adolescents may get involved. Despite the fact that the show is intriguing, there is a lot to learn from Rue’s experiences with drugs at such a young age.