HBO's "Euphoria" Tackles Teen Addiction, Depression

By Lindsey Weedston 06/19/19

Early reviews of the show’s series premiere praise it for speaking directly to Generation Z and for its “unflinching” examination of addiction and mental illness.

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HBO's "Euphoria"
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A new HBO drama titled Euphoria premiered on Sunday which takes on the issues of sex and drug use among teens. Creator Sam Levinson, who wrote and directed Assassination Nation, adapted Euphoria from an Israeli series and was inspired by his own history with drugs.

“I was a drug addict for many years and I’ve been clean for many years now,” he said in an interview with Entertainment Weekly.

“I was just trying to capture that kind of heightened sense of emotion, when you’re young and how relationships feel. Relationships have such a pull and people have such a pull, and the world feels like it’s just constantly sort of bearing down on you and that anxiety and those sort of mood swings that I think are inherent to being young, in general then, but are even more so when you struggle with anxiety and depression and addiction.”

The issue of mixing teens with high amounts of sex and drug use has people talking, with some concerned that parents will “freak out” about it. However, Levinson hopes that honestly approaching these issues will help bridge what he sees as a growing gap between generations.

“I hope that it at least opens up a dialogue between the two because it’s hard being a teenager,” he said. “It’s difficult, especially too if you’re struggling with addiction and battling those things. Hopefully it’ll open up those means of communication.”

Early reviews of the show’s series premiere praise it for speaking directly to Generation Z and for its “unflinching” approach to topics people would rather not think about. According to Gretchen Smail of Bustle, actress Zendaya plays a 17-year-old girl who is so deep in depression and anxiety that her only relief comes from getting so high that “her heart stops.”

According to a 2018 report by the World Health Organization, half of all mental illnesses begin by age 14 but “most cases are undetected and untreated.” Depression is also cited in the report as one of the primary causes of illness and disability among people age 10 to 19.

Prior to the series premiere, Zendaya posted a warning on her Instagram account about the graphic and heavy nature of Euphoria’s content.

“Just a reminder before tonight’s premiere, that Euphoria is for mature audiences,” she wrote. “It’s a raw and honest portrayal of addiction, anxiety and the difficulties of navigating life today. There are scenes that are graphic, hard to watch and can be triggering. Please only watch if you feel you can handle it.”

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Lindsey Weedston is a Seattle area writer focused on mental health and addiction, politics, human rights, and various social issues. Her work has appeared in The Establishment, Ravishly, ThinkProgress, Little Things, Yes! Magazine, and others. You can find her daily writings at NotSorryFeminism.com. Twitter: https://twitter.com/LindseyWeedston

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