Review: Controversial Euphoria Returns to HBO

Tess O'Connell

Earlier this month, HBO’s popular Euphoria returned and released the first episode of long-awaited Season 2. Since the show’s premiere in June 2019, Euphoria has redefined the high school experience for many teenagers as well as portrayed serious matters in a distinctive way.

Euphoria delves astonishingly deep, covering realistic issues like familial conflicts, identity, domestic violence, and, specifically, drug abuse. Rue Bennet, the show’s seventeen-year-old main character, is a hard drug addict who is struggling on her road to sobriety. While Euphoria does depict the severe reality of drug use, the glittering makeup, flashing lights, mystical soundtrack, and sheer normality of routine drug use could implicate the opposite message to viewers. 

Due to the nature of the show – the boisterous parties, attractive characters, breathtaking visuals – many argue that Euphoria, to an extent, glorifies the use of drugs by making them seem enjoyable and “euphoric.” However, the reality is that drugs can be entertaining and exhilarating, and removing that aspect from viewers would lessen the quality of the program.

Euphoria communicates the downsides of drugs just as much, if not more, than the better parts, forcefully reminding viewers that these choices have consequences. The show begins after Rue’s overdose and rehabilitation. The show includes these events and exhibits them in striking detail – Rue lying on her bedroom floor, unconscious and covered in vomit while her younger sister calls 911 – a nightmare that no teen would want to imitate.

In nearly every episode, Euphoria showcases the fallout of drug addiction. Jules tells Rue to quit using or their relationship will end, revealing the strains it places on relationships. Rue begs Fez for drugs and, in refusal to leave without them, is forced by a violent dealer to take the deadly drug fentanyl, highlighting the dangerous circumstances that drugs can get you into. At a party, Rue snorts coke after taking heroin and begins to go into cardiac arrest, showing the very real health risk of drugs. These situations are meant to terrify viewers, as they are the real potential consequences of drug addiction, and I applaud the directors of the show for their inclusion.  

Overall,  Euphoria portrays drug addiction in a digestible way, while also producing an appealing and exciting show. While everybody’s viewing experience will be different, the overall warning Euphoria sends is that drug addiction is something very severe and dark.