Spoiler Alert: Trapped in Euphoria

Breaking the stigma

Spoiler alert: The following article contains details from Euphoria season 1 and 2. Trigger warning: drug abuse, reader discretion is advised. 

The second season of HBO’s hit show, Euphoria, has been all the craze lately. Euphoria is a teen drama  based on the lives of high school students and the struggles they face within themselves, their homes, and their friendships. 

The show has sparked quite a bit of controversy with its depiction of teenage drama and addiction. Some viewers argue that the show is glamorizing the use of drugs, while others argue the purpose of the show is to expose the reality of drug abuse. However, the producer, Sam Levinson,  shared that he depicts his personal experience with drug dependency through the show.

Played by Zendaya Coleman, the narrator Rue Bennett, struggles with addiction. Growing up, Rue suffered from a variety of mental health disorders such as ADHD, general anxiety, borderline personality disorder, and depression which she received medication for. 

When Rue was 13-years old, her father was diagnosed with cancer. To help her cope with his illness, Rue began stealing her father’s medication. This was where her addiction was born. After his death, Rue had been using drugs so heavily that she nearly overdosed and was sent to a rehabilitation facility. 

In the first season, Rue had just returned from rehab, but had no intention of staying clean. As soon as she returned, she began using drugs again. Rue’s high,  illustrated through the use of  glittery makeup, colorful lights, depicted her happiness. However, as the show developed, the effects drugs had on her quickly revealed the ugly truth. 

Rue’s journey was messy and complicated. She had been lying to her friends and family about staying clean until she became romantically involved with Jules Vaughn, who encouraged her to stay clean.  Rue was able to stay sober for three months until Jules ran away from home, leaving Rue behind. Rue’s pain overcame her and she relapsed once again. 

In season 2, the stages of Rue’s addiction begin to unfold. She began trying more drugs such as cocaine, fentanyl, and heroin, and told everyone she only relapsed by “smoking a little weed” every now and then.  

Rue realizes that she does not have enough money to fuel her addiction, so she elaborates a plan to make money and use drugs. Rue’s plan involves becoming a business associate with a drug dealer, Laurie, dipping into the $10 thousand worth of drugs she should be selling, and getting caught using drugs again by her mother.  Rue’s mother disposes of the drugs and threatens to send her back to rehab. Rue is facing withdrawal and lashes out completely against her friends and family.  She runs away from home, refusing to go to rehab. Fueled by fear of what Laurie will do once she realizes that Rue cannot repay her, Rue breaks into and steals from a house. She is chased all over town by police officers and is able to escape. She delivers the jewelry and cash she stole, but it is not nearly enough to pay off her debt. Laurie expected this, and in an attempt to “help” Rue ease the pain of her withdrawal symptoms, Laurie injects Rue with morphine. When Rue wakes up, she escapes Laurie’s house and finally decides to try getting sober. 

Levinson explains that the show’s purpose is to bring awareness and strike conversations about things that are not easy to talk about. Watching Rue’s addiction unfold revealed how drugs can truly derail a person’s life. 

In an Instagram post, Zendaya reveals, “It’s my hope for people watching that they still see Rue as a person worthy of their love, and worthy of their time, and that she has a redemptive quality still, and that we still see the good in her even if she can’t see it in herself. I think that if people can go with her through that, and get to the end, and still have hope for her future, and watch her make the changes and steps to heal and humanize her through her sobriety journey and her addiction, then maybe they can extend that to people in real life. If you can love her, then you can love someone that is struggling with the same thing and maybe have a greater understanding of the pain they’re facing, that is often out of their control.” Zendaya concludes her emotional message with the sentiment, “Remember that we are not the worst mistake we’ve ever made and that redemption is possible.” 

If you or anyone you know is struggling, do not hesitate to reach out. Yesterday’s mistakes do not define tomorrow’s future. There are thousands of resources available, you are not alone. Tarleton State University’s wellness center is a great resource, for help call 254-968-9044 or the National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357.