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Addiction: Euphoria’s Take On It, and Why It Is Helping People Understand Addiction Better

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.

*Spoiler warning: includes details of Euphoria episodes*

There is no doubt that Euphoria has become one of the most talked about shows within Gen Z, and in my opinion, this is rightfully so. Many people will say it is unrealistic, glorifies drugs, and doesn’t accurately portray teenager’s lives, and other comments that try to downplay the events within the plot. However, I think anyone with a family history of addiction would say that Euphoria’s portrayal of addiction has opened up the floor for discussion about the disease. It introduces the horror of addiction to those who have never experienced it before, which some other shows have avoided doing.

Since Euphoria broadcasted on Sundays, it quickly became part of everyone’s weekly routine earlier this year. I would sit down at 8:50pm every week waiting for my HBO MAX to crash because everyone in the world was waiting to see what would happen in the episode, and later participating in the post-show frenzy on TikTok or Twitter. The second season came with roaring anticipation after the first season aired in 2019. People loved the cinematography, the representation, the style, and how it touched on subjects such as sexuality, sex work, abuse, and most of all, drug addiction. 

If anyone before the second season, which aired at the beginning of 2022, had expressed their opinion that Euphoria glamorizes drug use, I would have only slightly disagreed. Maybe it was only glamorizing ecstasy and psychedelics in the first season. Still, in certain scenes like Rue begging Fez for drugs outside of his house, calling for him to open the door, I knew right then and there that the writers—and creator Sam Levinson—had something big in store for us. 

On February 6, 2022, the fifth episode of season 2 came out. When that episode aired, I shut my laptop, stared at the ceiling, and just cried for hours, avoiding the internet as much as possible. 

Addiction is horrible, and that episode really gave us insight into it. Not only about how it takes a toll on the person individually, but also how it causes collateral damage for everyone in their life in all the worst ways. 

The synopsis of the episode is as follows: After Jules tells the truth about Rue’s relapse, Rue’s mother confronts her about her drug use. Meanwhile, Rue desperately searches for the suitcase and tries to avoid going to rehab. (Forbes 2022).

I’m sorry if you can relate to anything that occurred in that episode. Addiction is truly one of the scariest, most terrifying, vile diseases in the world (as said by Ali in Rue’s special episode).

I believe this episode changed Euphpria completely as an experience in pop culture, and those who have either suffered with addiction or seen someone they love experiencing it, they were touched by the episode in a way that was both oddly comforting and disturbing.

Altogether, as someone that has seen loved ones struggle with addiction, I felt seen and heard. It was as though someone had said to me “we know what you went through.”

HBO/ A24

The most important reminder from the episode is how addiction will completely change a person and how terrifying it is to watch someone you love entirely disappear. They honestly just become unrecognizable. But, the scariest thing is how easily they will lie.

We lie because we don’t want to get in trouble, right? And what’s the scariest type of trouble we think we can get into? I guess, getting caught doing drugs. Seeing Rue lie to her mom about doing opioids while on another planet hit in a way where you felt a pit in your stomach. You can see her lying through her teeth and being so incredibly panicked. 

You can also see the panic in her mother’s eyes. The portrayal of wanting to call the cops, the hospital, or anyone, but ultimately not knowing if it’s the safest idea, is incredibly accurate and terrifying.

Addiction will hurt you and say things to the people you love most. So, when Rue told her mom she messed up as a mom or reached into her girlfriend Jules’s deepest insecurities and pulled them up to make them look less like the victim, it is so sickening and heartbreaking. 

I have had the worst of the worst said to me because of addiction. I have had my stuff aired out because of addiction, and it makes you feel even worse about wanting to help those struggling with addiction.

However, I think the most important part about Euphoria is how well they show that although someone experiencing addiction is willing to hurt those around them, they still deserve a small bit of empathy because none of their addiction is their fault. It is a disease.

Addiction will make even the calmest, most empathetic, and level-headed people become violent, because it is so mentally draining that the only thing you can become is physical. 

Fighting with someone battling addiction is terrifying because they know their strength is greater than you will ever know, so when they throw a glass across the room, it shatters into a thousand snowflake-sized pieces, those who love them see how scared they need to be. 

Addiction is terrifying. It can almost darken a person’s world to a degree where you are scared to find a way out. It has genuinely made me reconsider drugs and alcohol in a new light. But, in the end, it is a more slippery slope than you think. It makes you wonder if you should wait for the addiction to start or if you should be hyperactive and ensure you stop it. The scariest part is how too many have no idea until it’s too late. 

As a whole, I think Euphoria is a show that is needed to create commentary on and portray the events in a young person’s life in a way that is raw, scary, and in my opinion, as accurate and ugly as possible.

Milla Ewart

Queen's U '23

Described by the New York Times as a "Full-Time Fool."