Euphoria’s depiction of drugs isn’t glamourizing, it’s a harsh reality

Spoilers for Season two of Euphoria

Euphoria’s glitzy and glamourous aesthetic never fails to captivate viewers. The presence of evocative images, strobe-y effects, and nearly never-ending teen angst can feel simultaneously alienating and familiar to high school and young adult audiences. 

Sure, you’ve probably never seen a baby eat cigarette butts or met a drug-dealing grandmother. But you’ve likely felt insecure with your body image, heard of a love triangle scandal, or experimented with substances to offset the burdens and emotions of dealing with our modern-day world. 

Many choose to avoid the show due to the often graphic and triggering scenes, and I completely understand that decision. However, in January, the Drug Abuse Resistance Education program (DARE) issued a statement criticizing the show for “glorifying drug use and making it seem like a common feature in a typical high schooler’s world.” I personally disagree with this statement. 

Rue’s storyline regarding her constant battle with addiction is one I’ve both empathized and been exasperated with during the show. Season two picks up with Rue getting back on drugs as soon as she leaves rehab. Viewers can see the effects of how far she’s gone only when her mother finds out. 

Episode five is particularly painful because we experience Rue’s withdrawal and how she crosses many boundaries to get what she wants, consequently breaking all her friendships and close relationships. We see withdrawal’s toll on her and her pain, yet we also commiserate with her sister and her mom, who’ve had to deal with this time and time again. 

I’m sure we’ve all vaguely understood the effects of getting clean before, but in a very abstract “I’ll never go that far” sense. Yet, Euphoria effortlessly aces what other TV shows have failed to do. The show is constantly pushing the boundary to encapsulate the raw emotions of each character’s trials and tribulations. 

When it comes to Rue’s rollercoaster of a journey, this is no different. Yes, it shows us how high the highs can get and how far from reality the experiences can seem. But the show also illustrates how brutal the lows are and the costs of beating addiction while going through withdrawal.

In the season finale, Rue’s mother tells Rue she’s not her priority anymore, and she’s given up trying to keep Rue clean. This would be jarring and heartbreaking for any child to hear from their parent. We, as viewers, can see how deeply that hurts Rue. It signals that not everything can return to normal once you come back from the damage you’ve inflicted to both yourself and to those around you.

In Euphoria, Rue’s journey isn’t a glamourization of nor an outright advocacy against substance abuse. It’s a brutal and honest portrayal of how deeply addiction affects people. 

Anya is a third-year Commerce student and a member of The Journal’s BIPOC Advisory Board.


drug abuse, Euphoria, TV shows

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