‘Euphoria’ isn’t as far from reality as we think

Hit show, ‘Euphoria’, is known for it’s drama-filled storylines, but what if we can relate to these characters more than we think?



Zendaya stars in HBO Max’s hit series, Euphoria, as Rue who actively struggles with addiction and mental health.

Ansley Morris, Associate Editor

As you’ve been walking through the halls the past month, you’ve probably heard quite a few conversations about the hit HBO Max show, Euphoria. After a two-year hiatus, the series came back for its second season in early January and the final episode of the season aired at the end of February.

The show follows a friend group of highly fashionable, drama-filled, and a lot of the time, struggling teens. Overall, the show seems to stretch far beyond the reality of what high schoolers today face, but that’s not necessarily the case.

The series did catch some heat from the DARE program, claiming the production was romanticizing Rue’s addiction to drugs. Zendaya, who plays the character of Rue, responded to this take: “Our show is in no way a moral tale to teach people how to live their life or what they should be doing. If anything, the feeling behind Euphoria, or whatever we have always been trying to do with it, is to hopefully help people feel a little bit less alone in their experience and their pain. And maybe feel like they’re not the only one going through or dealing with what they’re dealing with.”

I can understand how easy it is to get caught up in the glamour of their trendy outfits and eye-grabbing makeup; it does sometimes make you want to be like the characters because they just look that good. But, I think that as long as you keep the idea Zendaya expressed in mind when watching the show, you can clearly see past the glitz and glam of the fashion and really feel the pain that these issues bring to both the ones experiencing it as well as the loved ones around them in the show. Perhaps seeing it all in action may be a deterrent.

Some of the issues that the show focuses on are abuse, self-discovery, and addiction. Whether it’s the main character, Rue, being addicted to narcotics, Nate being addicted to control, or Cassie addicted to achieving male validation, almost all of the characters seem to struggle with some sort of addiction or bad habit. While we may not encounter kids addicted to narcotics like Rue, Euphoria still highlights issues that high school students can very easily encounter, just on a more exaggerated scale.

Anywhere you go to high school, you’re going to encounter toxic relationships and friendships. We’re young, selfish by nature, and searching for approval from those around us. These traits all come together to create groups of people who most of the time are not ready to handle a mature, healthy relationship. Euphoria understood this and displayed it countless times through Cassie and Nate, Maddy and Nate, Rue and Jules, and even between family members as the characters navigate through their own issues.

Some relationships such as the one between Maddy and Nate even escalate to a level that becomes both emotionally and physically abusive. The toxicity was taken to an extreme, but it’s important that we see these instances so we can be made aware and see the consequences of living in relationships such as these.

A common trend among the characters in the show is how everyone seems to be addicted to something different. No, I’m not just talking about physical items, but more specifically, actions and feelings. For example, Cassie is addicted to male validation. The show begins with her single for the first time in what feels like forever to her. She even goes on to say “This is the first time I haven’t been in love with anyone.”

This doesn’t last long.

Not even halfway through the first episode in season 2 and she’s already moved on to Nate, her best friend’s ex-boyfriend. This addiction has caused her issues in the past, but now, it’s going to cost her best friend.

I spent the majority of this season on the edge of my seat waiting for the drama of Maddy finding out about Cassie and Nate to unfold, and boy did it. Sure, the fight and ensuing drama made for entertaining television, but it also showed me how awful it would be to be in any sort of relationship like that. Addiction isn’t just to substances, but it usually does always end in those around you getting hurt.

A common trend among almost all of the characters in the show is that they’re struggling in some way to find their sense of identity. Whether that’s within their friendships, sexuality, other relationships, or just within themselves. Everyone, except for maybe Maddy, has moments of internal conflict where they’re unsure of themselves.

I think it’s pretty safe to say that this is something that most high school students struggle with in real life as well. These are some of the most formative years of our lives and trying to navigate our relationships with others and ourselves can easily leave people feeling lost a lot of the time.

Euphoria gives viewers the feeling that they’re not alone and that if they’re struggling with mental illness, self-identity, or even serious issues relating to substance abuse, they’re not alone in that.

While I don’t recommend striving to be like the characters in the show in terms of the way they act, there’s nothing wrong with appreciating the show for what it is and the message it gets across. It’s definitely on the crazier side of reality at times, but the core of the ideas they’re trying to get across to teens highlights issues that are much closer to reality than we tend to believe.

If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction or substance abuse help is available.

SAMHSA National Helpline 1-800-662-4357