How HBO’s ‘Euphoria’ Depicts Teenage Drug Addiction Accurately
This post contains spoilers for Euphoria.
HBO’s brand-new drama series, Euphoria, gives us a raw portrayal of the highs and lows of substance abuse, addiction, withdrawal, depression, self-harm, and accepting ourselves for who we are, along with navigating life as a teenager in today’s world. The series and its creator, Sam Levinson, have not shied away from the fact that some moments on the show might be difficult to process, let alone consistently watch week after week.
However, the intent on telling a very specific kind of story when it comes to this group of teens means they’re not going to sugar coat what we see on screen just to make it family-friendly. To borrow a tagline from another teen show, like Skins, that pushed boundaries in order to start conversations, this show goes there. On the subject of substance abuse and extreme drug addiction, Euphoria goes places that no television shows have really gone in regards to accuracy and authenticity.
The Story of Addiction is Based on the Show’s Creator
The man behind Euphoria, Sam Levinson, has had his own personal history with drugs and even went through the battle of addiction himself. After being a drug addict for many years, Levinson has shed light on his story and has also manifested it into the story that is Euphoria. Additionally, Levinson has been open with his struggles with addiction and was inspired to bring forward this show because he obviously has such an emotional attachment to it. It’s clear that he wants viewers to take something from this show and realize that addiction is a real issue and has a lot of impact on people.
Finding this out, it’s safe to say that the show has credibility when it comes to the contribution of a real and honest story about the use of drugs. Zendaya’s character, Rue, is the narrator of the show and the primary individual facing the issues of serious drug addiction. When it came to shooting, Levinson collaborated with Zendaya frequently to ensure that the story being told was, in a sense, a reflection of his own life and personal struggles.
The Rawness of Teen Culture and Addiction
In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Levinson mentioned that he based his depiction of this generation’s language and doings off himself. He told reporters that:
“I just wrote myself. I just wrote myself as a teenager. I think those feelings and memories they’re still extremely accessible to me. So it’s not a hard reach. I just write myself and what I was feeling and what I was going through when I was younger and I was dealing with addiction.”
The same goes with the dialogue of the teens in this show and the conversations that are held between them, it’s all so genuine and real.
With Zendaya’s character, Rue, we learn that she becomes addicted to drugs through the use of her dying father’s prescription medicines. She first tries a drug at the age of 13 and progressively gets worse with her addiction. The show also values Rue’s background and upbringing by giving audiences a view of how her childhood struggles shaped her. In the first few minutes of the pilot episode, we learn that Rue is diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), attention deficit disorder (ADD), general anxiety disorder, and even bipolar disorder.
This plays a larger role as the pilot continues because it gives Rue reasoning to taking the certain drugs that she does. She is not taking drugs because of peer pressure from friends, because she wants to have fun, she’s taking them to suppress the anxiety that has stuck with her since childhood. This is important because it’s clearing the air of many stereotypical statements about why people or even teens become addicted to drugs in the first place. It is clear that Rue is suffering from intense anxiety and possibly mental illness, and this is how addiction can spiral.
The Reality of Withdrawals and Relapse
Euphoria gets very real when we see Rue actually overdose in her room and her own sister finds her on the ground covered in vomit. Luckily, Rue survives and gets sent to a rehab center for months over summer break, but as soon as she returns home, the reality of relapse occurs. This is yet another accurate portrayal of the recovery process and it highlights how hard it can be to overcome serious drug addiction.
Rue also has withdrawals later in the story when she is asked to give a story about how her summer went at school; she instantly is reminded of her overdose and how hard that was for herself and her family. She gets severe anxiety in front of her class and runs off to a bathroom stall to slip a pill she had in her pocket, but a friend of hers interrupts her and she flushes it down the toilet. This is showing how Rue is still struggling with her addiction and how she really does not have much support while going through this.
With Euphoria, it’s important for viewers to know that addiction is not easy and it requires a lot of strength and will for someone to overcome drug addiction. It’s important to be open-minded and have compassion for individuals going through addiction and from the words of Sam Levinson himself, he reminds us that:
“I do think it’s important that we as a culture — we as parents, we as brothers and sisters — have empathy for the struggles [people] are going through,” Levinson told Variety, “I think any time you put anything on screen, you run the risk of glamorizing it just by the nature of it being on screen. I don’t want [to be triggering], but we also have to be authentic about it.”
With that being said, if you or anyone you know is struggling with serious substance abuse or addiction, contact us today.