Euphoria Season Two Portrays Difficult Issues with Caution, Not Glorification


Euphoria’s main character, Rue Bennett (Zendaya), continues to struggle with drug addiction in season two. (Courtesy of Twitter)

“Happy Euphoria Day!” is the phrase that trends every Sunday in preparation for a new episode of the HBO Max hit show “Euphoria.” This January, the show returned with its highly anticipated second season, two years after the release of season one. The show follows a group of high school students as they navigate friendships, drugs, sex and relationships. While Euphoria is arguably the most popular show of our generation, ever since the season first came out, it has been under fire for glamorizing drug use among high school students. 

Recently, Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) released a statement claiming that the show “chooses to misguidedly glorify and erroneously depict high school student drug use, addiction, anonymous sex, violence and other destructive behaviors as common and widespread in today’s world.” This claim does not come as a surprise, as many people expressed the same concern, especially since the show is so popular among teenagers. 

When Euphoria’s first season came out in 2019, viewers were drawn in due to its colorful, glittery aesthetic. The group of teenagers are seen casually consuming MDMA and other drugs recreationally while in a carnival house of mirrors, or covered in glittery blue and purple-hued make-up. Many argued that the eye-catching aesthetic of the show aids in the glamorization of drug use. I would agree with critics who say that Euphoria has been guilty of glamorizing substance use in season one; however, the drug abuse depicted by the main character Rue Bennett (Zendaya) is anything but glamorous. The show depicts Rue as she gets out of rehab following an overdose, refusing to stay clean and then struggling to avoid drugs despite the strain it causes on her relationships. 

Now in season two, there are hardly any characters who use drugs for fun; instead the only times drugs are seen is when it comes to addicts like Rue and the dealers she finds herself in trouble with. Instead of being confronted with pink and purple glittery highs, the show feels overall darker, from the lighting, mood and the topics the show deals with. 

The characters are no longer seen taking acid while riding a ferris wheel at a carnival; instead, we see Rue struggling with her addiction and the effect it has on everyone in her life. Every Sunday, viewers have been confronted with the harsh reality of drugs and addiction. Arguably the most moving episode of the entire show so far is season two, episode five. This episode follows Rue as her friends and family confront her about using drugs again, causing them to flush them down the toilet. Rue has a lengthy monologue, screaming and crying at her mother, sister and girlfriend as she experiences withdrawal. She is seen jumping out of a car, running from the police and ends up at a dangerous drug dealer’s apartment in order to get a fix. After watching this episode, there is no way someone could say that Euphoria glamorizes drug use and addiction. Instead, the show portrays the dark truths of what addiction can do. 

In response to the comments made by DARE, Zendaya, who is both the lead actress and an executive producer, put out a statement in Entertainment Weekly reminding fans of the show’s nature. She said that the goal of the show is to educate and to help people feel less alone. She has also reminded viewers that the show dives into some very mature topics, which they should keep in mind when deciding to watch.

On top of that, every episode begins with a trigger warning and ends with a number to call if you are struggling with addiction. “Euphoria” does its part to protect its viewers while still getting their own message across. It is up to the individual viewer to decide if that content is going to be too much or triggering for them to see.

Grace Campbell, FCRH ’25, is undecided from Northborough, M.A.