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Euphoria: A Shift from Glorification to Reality

TW: Drug Abuse and Addiction, Sex Trafficking/Prostitution

Contains Spoilers of Euphoria

HBO’s latest hit series Euphoria has been equally adored by fans and nitpicked by criticizers. However, wherever you stand on the bandwagon train that is Euphoria, watching the season two, episode five episode “Stand Still Like the Hummingbird,” should be one for the record books. The storyline for this episode focused on Rue and her rock-bottom with drug addiction. This episode not only was vital for the character’s arc, but I would say this episode is very engraved in the stigma that surrounds addiction. 

This episode portrayed a drug addict’s rock bottom to a tee. A key aspect of this episode really demonstrating the reality of drug abuse was Rue’s withdrawal. While Rue may have done other drugs, her drug of choice is opiates. Opiate withdrawal is among one of the worst withdrawals, with a variety of symptoms. We first saw Rue sweating, then having stomach pain which progressively turned into throwing up and having bowel issues. The most subtle part of her withdrawal – especially for those who aren’t familiar with opiate withdrawals – was the yawning. Without much knowledge of drugs, many people could assume all the running around she did simply wore her out. In reality, opiate withdrawals are known for causing excessive yawning. So yes, Rue was tired and worn out, but all that yawning was her withdrawal. 

Her behavior from the very start of the episode is very aligned with some behaviors an addict might display. In this episode, Rue’s mother informed her that she knew she had been using again and Rue spiraled out of control. Rue became verbally and physically violent toward her mother and sister and started ripping apart various rooms of the house in search of the suitcase of drugs she got from Laurie. After a specifically cruel outburst toward her mother, her mother told her that Jules and Elliot were in the home and heard everything. Rue also became verbally abusive toward her friends saying that they are “dead” to her. 

After the home outburst, Rue agreed to go to the hospital with her mom and sister for assisted withdrawal. On the ride, Rue realized her mom was not driving to the emergency room, but rather to rehab. At the stoplight, Rue got out of the car and ran through moving traffic to get away from her mom. At this point, many see her as reckless (which she is), but more so she was desperate for relief. She found herself at Lexi’s house. Visibly going through withdrawal and asking to use the bathroom, Rue entered the home, but Lexi’s mom called Rue’s mom to the house. Rue, still angry and now experiencing the first physical stages of withdrawal, became verbally violent again. She exposed a main storyline for the season, telling Maddie that her best friend Cassie had been sleeping with her on-and-off-again boyfriend, Nate. Once Maddie and Cassie start fighting about it, Rue runs out of the house again. During her second flee, she went to Fez’s house for something to ease her withdrawals. He denies having anything to give, but she was able to use the restroom. She snuck into the bedroom where Fez’s bedridden and extremely ill grandmother stays. She found a medication prescribed for her, but when Fez caught her she becomes physically aggressive. He kicked her out of his house. After exhausting her usual options, she entered a stranger’s home after watching them leave in hopes of finding pills or money. She robbed the house and escaped when they arrived home. 

While we have to wait until the next episode to see what Rue’s fate may look like, we caught a very dark glimpse of it at the end of this one. She returns to Laurie’s home to give her the things she stole from the home. Whether Rue was really giving her the items as a way to pay her back or convincing her for more drugs, it was still another display of being desperate. Laurie explains to Rue that she will be able to pay her back and insinuated that Rue can sell her body to earn back the money she owes her. There was definitely foreshadowing throughout the seasons that Laurie is not only involved in drug trafficking, but also sex trafficking. Studies (like this one) show that many people who engage in prostitution may do so to support pre-existing drug habits. In fact, 55% of women had preexisting drug addictions before entering prostitution, even if it may or may not have been to support their use. 

In this episode, Rue found herself in several situations, including a police chase, that put her at risk for injury, arrest, or death. She had attempted to – and possibly did– destroy her relationships with family, close friends, and peers. This is not uncommon by any means in addicts, but to cut people off and push them away in the manner she did is a key sign of rock bottom. Euphoria is infamous for glorifying drug use, especially in teenagers; however, this episode doesn’t show the “fun” or “peace” that can come out of drug abuse. This episode shows the bad and the ugly effects that drugs can have on a person and their world. I personally would be extremely surprised if this episode alone does not land Zendaya’s second Emmy nomination (and/or win) for Euphoria. Back in 2020, Zendaya won “Outstanding Lead Actress In A Drama Series” for the role of Rue, and I expect to see her nominated again for this particular episode performance.

If you or someone you know is dealing with drug abuse and/or addiction, there are anonymous resources.

SAMSHA National Helpline

CALL: 1-800-662-4357

If you or someone you know is in fear of or is being trafficked, there are anonymous resources.

National Human Trafficking Hotline

CALL: 1 (888) 373-7888TEXT: “HELP” or “INFO” to 233733

Kaitlin Serad

Coastal Carolina '23

Kaitlin is a Psychology (forensic concentration) major and she minors in Intelligence and National Security at Coastal Carolina University. She also was a part of Students Against Sex Trafficking at CCU. Kaitlin currently works at a local restaurant owned by her family. She loves true crime, binge-watching TV shows or movies, and spending time with family and friends.
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