Euphoria- a false claim?

Moira Weinstein, Contributing Writer

Euphoria has become a hit show within the last couple of years, especially amongst a younger generation. The plot follows a group of teenagers at East Highland High School—rumored to be in the Los Angeles area based on the appearance of the streets and hills—who are going through intense social and personal obstacles. Rue, the main character, struggles from addiction after years of being medicated for mental disorders. After stealing her ill fathers’ pain medication, she begins to experiment with a series of stimulants, depressants and everything in between to numb herself from the world around her. 

Addiction is often stigmatized, and those suffering from it are shamed for returning to the substance that has impacted their lives so heavily. People fail to understand that addiction is a disease with ups and downs similar to those suffering from any other type of chronic illness. The withdrawal, particularly early on, is intensely torturous to an addict. Rue specifically uses opioids, benzodiazepines and other strong depressants, many of which have some of the most painful withdrawal symptoms, as well as the highest rates of relapse. The American Addiction Center says that most withdrawal symptoms of these types of narcotics include agitation, sweating, nausea, hallucinations and even seizures. Although we see Rue suffer many consequences, such as a kidney infection and severe depression, it is oftentimes chalked up to her bipolar disorder, not directly to the drug abuse.

The romanticization of drug use doesn’t come from the lack of acknowledgment of the physical aftermath. It lives within the beauty of the show: the music, the relationships, the nonchalant movement and interaction. When Maddy and Cassie, two main characters, attend a public carnival, they purchase molly-MDMA from a pretzel cart that Ashtray and Fezco, the town drug dealers, run. They casually order it after fighting with their boyfriends and snort it in their beautiful outfits and shiny makeup. It seems to bond them even more. The casualty and simplicity of this interaction normalizes drug use, even if it’s not intense and abusive. 

In terms of addiction, Rue is the one character who the audience truly analyzes as an addict. She overdoses in the first episode, only to have her little sister find her seizing on the floor. This is the reality of substance abuse, but the way Rue goes about her life as if it never happened, normalizes everything. The flashing lights, the heavy rhinestone eye makeup and the high-energy music make drug use seem euphoric. The title is even promoting this idea. Euphoria is something drug users chase, something they get from drug use that many people struggle to find in their own lives. And although the show relays the idea that the aftermath makes it not worth it, they still give the audience a view into the “magic” feeling of drug use. 

Most of the romanticization of addiction comes from the special effects and wardrobe, in addition to the beauty of everything within the show. Every teenager is idolizing the characters today, refusing to see the truth behind drugs. Viewers don’t watch the show to learn about drug abuse, they watch it for the intense relationships, attractive characters, unique soundtrack and ultimately the euphoric feel.

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