Even though Euphoria is not the first show to discuss drug and alcohol use, it conveys a distinctly different message. Shows like Dopesick, The Wire, Ozark, and Breaking Bad illustrate the stigmatized but often overlooked drug trade that plagues our nation. However, Euphoria focuses specifically on drug use among high school students.
Euphoria follows a group of teenagers on their journey through personal traumas, loss, and love. It also deals with darker subjects like abuse, addiction, and the deadly nature of the drug trade.
Despite the viewer discretion messages, screen sharing helplines, and a resource page on the network’s website, some experts are concerned. They believe the content of the show glorifies substance use behaviors by crossing the fine line between promotion and exaggerated reality.
According to NBC News, D.A.R.E. claims the following:
“Euphoria chooses to misguidedly glorify and erroneously depict high school drug use, addiction, anonymous sex, violence, and other widespread behaviors as common and widespread in today’s world.”
Such a statement certainly raises many questions.
Is Euphoria a realistic representation of high school today?
Euphoria stands out from other teen party culture dramas for the way it capitalizes on topics like teenagers’ drug addiction and intense (and varied) sexual trauma without losing sensitivity. Though highly dramatic, the film is not brooding and can be difficult to watch at times.
With multiple storylines and defined characters, the show offers a broad perspective on the varying conflicts and life choices faced by many high school students around the world.
A news source reached out to high school students asking if they felt that the show was an accurate depiction of high school life. Most students agreed that even though the theme of the show was exaggerated, it portrays what is truly happening among teens today. One teen commented:
“I think our generation has taken drinking to the next level. Bringing a bottle of vodka and putting it in your locker and being smashed during, like, all periods…that happens.”
Another high schooler admitted that many teens post content on social media that contains nudity, violence, drug deals, and alcohol or drugs they’re selling. She said,
“Three of my friends died in the last two years and they were only in the tenth grade. I don’t think Euphoria is exaggerated. I think this is really what happens.”
Why do fans of Euphoria defend the show?
D.A.R.E. is frustrated that HBO, social media, and critics refer to the show as “groundbreaking.” They claim the producers fail to acknowledge the potentially negative consequences for many school-age children who face unparalleled mental health challenges. Yet, their concerns appear to be unheeded.
HBO has not responded to offers of collaboration. But, many fans have zealous criticism of their own, stating that D.A.R.E. led to their interest in drugs, whereas Euphoria turned them off.
The creator, director, and writer of Euphoria, Sam Levinson, designed the main character based on his own experience with substance use. He had this to say about the show:
“I think it’s crucial that film and television portray addiction in an honest way. That we allow for its complexities to play out. That we show the allure of drugs, the relief they can bring, because that is ultimately what makes them so destructive.”
Levinson’s main purpose was to initiate a conversation and provide a space for these issues that divide generations and create barriers between parents and teens. His depiction of the devastation that drug use entails, as well as the enticement it offers, is intended to mirror and replicate real life.
Apart from the glitz and glam, the show essentially portrays teenagers who would like to be accepted for who they are despite being immature in their choices.
Does familiarity lead to early drug and alcohol consumption?
Recent studies reveal that there is a definite correlation between exposure to alcohol marketing and teen alcohol use. Also, social media is especially important to young people, and the outlets often portray and represent behaviors such as substance use and partying.
A whole underlying culture becomes less foreign and more familiar because of the false sense of familiarity that forms when teens connect with characters in shows like Euphoria. On the other hand, the show may make some teens thankful that the characters in the show are not real and do not attend their school.
Ultimately, the show has sparked dialogue about the difficult-to-process subjects of addiction, trauma, abuse, and sex/gender expression or experimentation. Shows such as Euphoria may help spread awareness about these issues. The show is only three years old, so we don’t yet know the type of impact it will have on teens.
Dealing With the Reality of Addiction at Design for Change
When a loved one struggles with substance abuse or addiction, the reality is devastating. You can’t switch it off like you can a TV show. The only way to handle it is to seek professional help.
At Design for Change Recovery, we understand and treat all aspects of addiction to ensure lasting recovery. We offer a customized program that adapts to the unique situation of each client, addressing their physical, emotional, and spiritual needs.
Contact us at our facility in beautiful Lancaster, CA today to learn more about our programs.