Analysing the accurate depiction of drug use in “Euphoria”

Over the years, numerous TV shows and films have endeavoured to depict drug addiction, yet many rarely succeed. Addiction is an extremely complex process, with many facets only truly understood by current users and former addicts. However, some productions manage to portray certain characters’ struggles in a very accurate and harrowing way. Euphoria, an HBO TV show starring actress Zendaya, attempts to join this small list.


Who is Rue Bennett?

Rue Bennett, played by actress Zendaya, is the main character in the TV show Euphoria. Her journey in the show is a deep exploration of drug addiction. Wrestling with opioid addiction, Rue uses drugs as a coping mechanism for deep-seated mental health issues that include anxiety and depression.

The series delicately unveils the challenges she faces on the path to recovery amidst turbulent relationships, self-discovery and relapse. Rue’s character invites viewers to empathise with the profound impact of addiction to substances like heroin and fentanyl on personal and interpersonal realms. Her narrative is a heartfelt reminder of the intricate emotions and difficulties entwined with substance dependence.


How well did Euphoria depict drug addiction?

While Rue’s drug addiction is portrayed effectively throughout the series, two episodes in particular stand out in season 2: episodes 5 and 6. In these episodes, we witness an accurate and chilling account of opioid addiction and opioid withdrawal. The show doesn’t shy away from the specifics of many aspects of both addiction and withdrawal, offering a different perspective from what is typically shown in the media.

These specific episodes garnered significant media attention and sparked discussions on platforms, such as Reddit and YouTube, especially among former heroin and opioid sufferers. While some comments disagreed with Rue’s experiences, the overall consensus leaned toward them being accurate.

In the following sections, we delve into these two episodes, breaking down each notable scene. Additionally, we explore the feedback from the addiction community to gauge how accurately each scene reflects the perspective of people with addiction.



Season 2- Episode 5

Opening intervention scene

Euphoria – Rue Intervention Part 1: “Where are the pills?” Season 2 Episode 5 | HBO

In the opening scene of episode 5, we are met with Rue’s mother confronting Rue about her relapse, which she tried her best to keep a secret. Rue’s emotions immediately explode, demanding that she has access to the fentanyl pills that she stored away. Her mother tells her they had been flushed down the toilet, causing Rue to exhibit more intense anger. She tries to reason with her mother, quickly flipping from anger to apologetic behaviours throughout.

Upon discovering that her mother had confiscated her fentanyl stash, Rue’s response shows the intense cravings and dependency characteristic of opioid addiction. As she frantically searches for the painkillers, the distressing scenes unfold, with Rue trying her best to hurt the feelings of everyone in the family.

The repercussions of Rue’s behaviour extend beyond her own struggles. The saddening portrayal of her mother, sister and best friend reduced to tears underscores the profound emotional toll that addiction exacts on the support system surrounding the person. This emotional rollercoaster becomes even more evident as Rue oscillates between moments of apology and bursts of aggression, offering a stark representation of the unpredictable and volatile nature inherent in the grip of addiction.


Rue’s resistance to rehab and the car scene

Euphoria S02E05 | Rue runs out in the highway scene

Throughout the intervention scene, Rue attempts to reason with her family, asserting that she doesn’t need to go to rehab. The reluctance to attend rehab is a common theme in addiction, reflecting the internal struggle faced by those who may recognise the need for help but resist giving up the drug they’re dependent on.

In a pivotal moment, Rue breaks down and reluctantly agrees to go to the hospital’s emergency room, seeking relief from her withdrawal symptoms through morphine. However, during the car journey, she learns that she’s heading straight to rehab instead of the ER room. In a desperate move, Rue escapes the car and runs through heavy traffic, highlighting the extreme measures she’s willing to take to avoid entering rehab and maintain her habit.

Withdrawal symptoms and crime

Rue Robs a House Scene – Euphoria 2×05

Upon escaping her mother’s car, Rue is seen trying to obtain opioid pills in any way she can. She travels to her friend’s house, where she tries to steal medications. The scenes of Rue raiding her friend’s medicine cabinet and breaking into houses underscore the desperation and resourcefulness often seen in individuals with opioid and heroin addiction.
The singular focus on finding opioids, despite the risk and consequences, emphasises the powerful grip that the substance has on Rue’s behaviour.

Throughout the episode, we see Rue persistently yawning, as well as clutching her stomach in pain and profusely sweating, showing a realistic portrayal of physical symptoms associated with opioid use.


She’s also told by many other characters that her appearance is terrible. The disregard for her appearance and physical well-being reflects the all-consuming nature of addiction, where the pursuit of drugs takes precedence over personal care.

In one scene, Rue breaks into a stranger’s house in search of opioid money, again taking huge risks to fund and take the drugs she so badly needs. This criminal behaviour adds a layer of realism to the portrayal of addiction’s impact on an individual’s moral compass and legal consequences.

Desperation for any substance

euphoria 02×05 | Rue tries to steal from Fez then he throws her out his house

Once Rue arrives at the drug dealer’s house, she makes it clear that she will take any form of drugs in order to stop the withdrawals from happening. She states “I’ll take anything you have,” emphasising the desperation and fear of opioid withdrawal. This dialogue showcases the lengths to which individuals with addiction will go to avoid the painful symptoms of withdrawal, even if it means accepting an alternative substance.

The drug dealer offers Rue morphine via injection. Rue states how she has no experience with morphine, especially injecting. Regardless of the initial anxiety, she proceeds to ask the drug dealer to inject her with morphine.

After passing out from the effects of the drug, Rue awakens with only one aim: to steal more drugs. Rue’s immediate reaction to stealing and accessing drugs despite the support she received from her friend highlights the all-consuming nature of addiction. This is a common theme in addiction, where the desire for the substance often overrides gratitude or recognition of help received.

Season 2- Episode 6

Not being able to do the easiest of tasks

Rue breaking down at the table jolly rancher scene – Euphoria

In the opening scene of episode 6, we see Rue going through the acute stages of withdrawal and having difficulty opening a Jolly Rancher sweet. While initially seeming like quite a small feat, the programme’s creators show how even simple tasks become monumental, emphasising withdrawal’s physical and psychological toll.

We also see Rue’s struggles with regulating her breath and the presence of snot (flu-like symptoms) reflect the physical manifestations of opioid withdrawal. These details again add a realistic but harrowing touch to the portrayal of withdrawal symptoms and the overall discomfort experienced by individuals in recovery.

Rue spends most of this scene reminiscing on the bad things that she has done while addicted to opioids. She starts to form self-awareness of her actions and seems genuinely sorry about what she has done. She then calls her sponsor, Ali, to apologise for the terrible things she said to him. Her decision to apologise reflects a crucial step in the healing process, acknowledging the impact of one’s actions on others.

Once Ali accepts her apology, Rue can effortlessly open the Jolly Rancher.

The YouTube comment below thanks us for this scene. Although it’s unclear if this person was suffering from drug addiction, it goes to show how situations like this are down the psyche of a person. Once Rue was able to wash herself of her worries, she was able to function properly.


Overall verdict

According to certain media outlets and judging by the comments on social media, it seems Euphoria did a fantastic job of portraying the addiction and withdrawals that can come from drugs like heroin and opioid painkillers. Although some parts were dramatised for effect, the core elements were addressed well and provided a chilling insight into opioid drug addiction.

There is no evidence of Zendaya ever having an issue with drugs in real life, but she plays the part of a person with an addiction so well. Her role was well-researched to give the respect needed to perform in such an emotionally charged manner.

Are you struggling with heroin or other opioids?

If you feel as though your relationship with heroin or opioids is getting out of control, it’s essential to reach out for help.

Our compassionate team offers a lifeline with safe detox, empowering therapy and dedicated aftercare. Reclaim control over your life and embrace recovery with UKAT’s unwavering support. Break free from the chains of addiction and contact us today.