“Euphoria’s” Impacts and Implications

Sage Jezierski

A slightly dramatized expression of the struggles of modern-day teenagers, “Euphoria” has broken HBO streaming records and is rated one of the most-watched shows of Gen Z, according to Variety. The show, which follows a group of teenagers navigating life while caught up in drugs, sex, and drama, aims to portray an accurate depiction of the teenage experience. 

Its graphic content prompts its cast and producers to emphasize that Euphoria is for “mature audiences only.” Lead actress Zendaya, who plays Rue Bennett, sent out a tweet the night before the second season premiered, stating “[Euphoria] is deeply emotional and deals with subject matter that can be triggering and difficult to watch. Please only watch it if you feel comfortable.” 

Most criticism of the hit show is not the accuracy, but the way it presents the aforementioned issues. In early 2020, “Euphoria” sparked a widespread cultural fervor. “Euphoria” themed parties, Tik Tok trends, makeup, and fashion looks were widespread, especially with teens. The show’s impact was so significant that the trend was nicknamed “The “Euphoria effect.” 

The cultural relevance of the show coupled with its sensitive topic matter has harmful consequences on a generation that is easily influenced by the media. The aestheticization of addiction and violence in the show is clear, with characters facing minimal consequences for their actions. While the show doesn’t necessarily promote these actions, it doesn’t discourage them either. 

In an interview with Insider, Dr. Barbara Nosal, a teen addiction specialist, explained that “Euphoria” could put impressionable teens at an increased risk of self-destructive activity. 

Teens are looking for a way to escape and numb their feelings and they may get ideas or think doing these things [on the show] could help them feel better,” Dr. Nosal said. 

While drug use and sex are ever-present struggles for teenagers, research suggests that “Euphoria”’s portrayals of these issues are not accurate or relevant to today. Though access to the internet exposes children to adult activities earlier, recent studies in child development show that teenagers in the 21st century are having less sex and partaking in less illicit drug use (not including marijuana) than the last few generations of teens. Though surprising, dangerous use of drugs is down 30% for high schoolers, the lowest it has been in 20 years. 

One thing “Euphoria” does get right, according to critics, is the complex mental health of adolescents. Especially today, with increasing reliance on social media and increasing global problems, teens’ mental health is an escalating crisis, represented accurately on the show. Characters depict eating disorders, anxiety, depression, and OCD in an accurate portrayal. 

Though “Euphoria” has to address a multitude of flaws, its overall cultural success gives it the platform to make positive changes to the way we talk about mental health and addiction, as well as being a good starting point for important conversations.