Art doesn’t just imitate life. It can also control it.
That was my first thought when I learned that Bushland Independent School District in Texas is requiring some of its students to be drug tested.
“Euphoria” has the educational system in a panic.
The popular and groundbreaking HBO series will air its season one finale on Sunday night and has already been greenlit for a season two. The show is based on the lives of teenagers in high school and how they’re impacted by broken homes, social media, mental health, sexuality, and drug abuse.
“Euphoria” is not for the faint of heart, as it’s a graphic depiction of what’s really going on. It has copious amounts of full-frontal nudity, sex, domestic abuse, and drug use.
The general reaction from people has been, “Damn, is this what kids are really dealing with?”
And the answer is yes.
“It’s a very real portrayal and I’m glad that they did the show so that people can see that kids that age are doing drugs and all the different issues that they’re having socially,” Ashlee Rhodes told The Shadow League.
Rhodes spent almost a decade in special education classrooms teaching kids that ranged between kindergarten to fifth grade. She also has a Bachelor’s in Psychology and a Masters in Mental Health Counseling, and currently serves as a mental health therapist for K-12 students.
“The character that’s transgender, that’s very real. The characters that use drugs, that’s very real. The characters being so sexually active, sexually expressive, and sexually adventurous, is very real,” she exclaimed.
According to Planned Parenthood, less than a third of people are taught anything at all related to consent, sexual assault, or healthy relationships in middle or high school. And in 2017, 70,237 Americans died from drug overdoses, which as an average of 192 Americans per day according to Shatterproof.com.
Overdoses kill more Americans than car crashes, gun violence, and breast cancer. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) even lists prescription drug overdose prevention as one of their top five public health challenges.
“These kids are doing drugs that create depression and anxiety,” Rhodes explained. “They may not have had these mental health issues before, but once you start abusing drugs it alters the chemistry of your brain so now you do have these mental health issues that you normally wouldn’t have had you not did drugs.”
Down in the Texas Panhandle, seventh through twelfth-grade students that are involved with extracurricular activities like sports, band, student council, and other clubs will be subjected to testing. And according to the school district, this is more of a preventive approach since there doesn’t seem to be a growing drug issue amongst students.
“There isn’t an apparent drug problem,” said Assistant Superintendent Angie Watson. “But that isn’t to say that kids across the nation are not being introduced to drugs and getting into drugs. We’re just trying to be proactive. We’re giving them a reason to not do that.”
The district will be testing for alcohol, marijuana, heroin, and opioids, as other school districts throughout the state have already been testing students. A school district in Nebraska recently added nicotine to the list of things they test students for.
“People are realizing that this is a real thing and that kids are starting younger and younger using drugs,” said Rhodes. She also believes that school districts shouldn’t limit themselves to only drug testing, certain students, since kids of all ages and races are at risks.
“Normally the kids that are doing drugs are not the social kids,” she explained. “They’re going to be the recluses, and sometimes the really smart ones focused on academics, but are stressed out.”
Given the rise in drug overdoses and what’s taking place in Texas, it’s hard for me not to believe that the show’s purpose wasn’t to wake people up, especially given some of the reactions to it.
The New York Times said it offers, “drugs, despair, danger and lots of sex, in rough, violent, inappropriate, illegal and mortifying forms.”
While the President of the Parents Television Council, Tim Winter, believes that HBO is trying to intentionally produce a graphic show full of adult content for teens.
“HBO might attach a content rating suggesting that it is intended for mature audiences, but let’s be real here: who watches a show about high school children, except high school and junior high school-aged children?” Winter asks.
But if you ask me, “Euphoria” is for everyone.
We have the data that supports that these things are taking place in schools. And now we have a popular television series that’s presenting it in a way that’s impossible to ignore, forcing us to address it.
“Euphoria” has people shook, which is exactly how they should feel. Because like it or not, this is happening.
But don’t take my word for it, just ask the folks in Texas.