Euphoria’s Impact on Young People

Anna Camfield, Contributing Writer

The Emmy-award winning TV smash hit Euphoria–created, directed, and written by Sam Levinson, and produced by Zendaya, Drake, and Future–has received a lot of criticism from both the public and organizations such as D.A.R.E. about the glorification of drug addiction in the show’s main plot. But the real question is, does it? One of the latest episodes, for example, shows Zendaya’s character Rue struggling with the terrible effects of withdrawal after her mother Leslie (Nika King) and Jules (Hunter Schafer) flushed all of her drugs. We see Rue jump out of her mother’s car in the middle of a busy intersection in order to avoid being taken to rehab. She breaks into people’s houses for money and jewelry to sell to pay back the woman she got the drugs from, she has to escape from the cops, she suffers horrendous stomach aches and gets violently ill, and destroys her relationships with her friends over their concern for her drug use. 

Euphoria has so far done a decent job at showing the true, destructive nature of drug addiction and abuse. The scenes that draw criticism, where it shows a more “euphoric” experience of taking drugs, are told from Rue’s point of view and narrated by her. Those scenes depict how Rue feels while taking the drugs, not the aftermath or repercussions of doing so. 

There are plenty of upsetting storylines and scenes in Euphoria, relating to both drugs and other heavy topics such as sexual assault and abusive relationships. Euphoria is definitely not a show for everyone, and it does a good job of letting their audience know that. There is a trigger warning before each episode, and a website for resources including a text crisis line at the end of each episode. Granted, that does come at the very end of the credits which most people do not tend to sit through, so it’s timing in the episode does hinder people’s access to these resources. 

The main question to ask here is why is Euphoria more controversial than other shows for young audiences that deal with the same topics. One stand out example is the Canadian teen drama Degrassi (which Euphoria produces Drake also starred in). All of the series within the Degrassi franchise deal with the same topics as Euphoria: drug addiction, sexual assault, abusive relationships, teen pregnancy and abortion. So, what is the difference between the two? Euphoria does not hold back from its depictions of these traumatic topics. It follows through on the uncomfortable nature in order to tell the truth of what happens to people who have to go through these traumatic events. Shows such as Degrassi often hint at it or cut away right before the traumatic events happen. Yes, Degrassi was a network television show on networks such as Teen Nick and the Family Channel, whereas Euphoria is a late night show solely released on a streaming service, so there are boundaries on what shows such as Degrassi are allowed to air. 

Euphoria is also created, written, and directed by a man who has first hand experience with drug addiction. According to, Sam Levinson told reporters at the 2019 Euphoria premiere “I spent a majority of my teenage years in hospitals, rehabs, and halfway houses. I was a drug addict, and I’d take anything and everything until I couldn’t hear or breathe or feel.” Sam Levinson’s own experiences with the darkness of drug addiction allows him to delve deeper into not only how it affects the addict, but also how it affects their families and friends. Gia (Storm Reid), Rue’s sister, had to experience witnessing Rue’s overdose and living with the trauma of her sister almost dying. Rue’s mom lives in fear everyday of her daughter overdosing again and how that time she may not make it. Rue’s friend Lexi (Maude Apatow) lives with immense guilt, having distanced herself from Rue over the drug addiction before Rue’s overdose. 

Euphoria shows the dark, uncomfortable side of drug addiction. It’s not pretty to watch, because it’s not pretty to experience. It’s not a story for everyone, but it is a story that needs to be told.