Reckless, ignorant, self-serving, his words will cause huge harm
Once again Prince Harry is wading into the debate on mental health with reckless ignorance, oblivious to the facts and the catastrophic effects his words could have.
He speaks about using drugs that are illegal in this country, proclaiming the benefits he has enjoyed from cannabis and hallucinogenics such as ayahuasca. It’s hugely irresponsible.
Harry plainly has no understanding of the serious damage these substances can wreak on users – damage that I see on mental health hospital wards with upsetting frequency.
If he was any other celebrity, we could safely ignore him. But this is a man who uses his platform as a member of the Royal Family and sets himself up as a serious advocate for mental health policies.
no one has asked him to do this. He has adopted this course of action for his own reasons – and he seems to think that, since he doesn’t regret his own choices with drug use, these must be good for everyone.
The truth is he has such a narrow experience of life, limited by wealth, fame and privilege, that he cannot begin to guess what disastrous effect drugs can have on people in different circumstances.
Speaking objectively, from a distance, he doesn’t look to me like a great advert for marijuana, cocaine or anything else.
He appears neither particularly happy nor stable. Looking at the recent outcomes of his life, he has left his home country, broken off relations with members of his family, seems distanced from his friends back home and no longer has an Army career.
That doesn’t strike me as a ringing endorsement for selfmedication with mind-altering substances.
At best, we can say that if drug use has not exacerbated his mental health problems, then he can count himself extremely fortunate.
He’Sbeen playing Russian roulette with his own brain and, if he’s got away with it, he’s a lucky man. Harry is an example of what medical researchers call ‘n=1’. That’s a fancy way of saying his experiences are wholly anecdotal: The number (or ‘n’) of people involved in his unscientific study is one, ie himself.
It’s the least relevant, most potentially misleading kind of evidence. And it is contradicted by experiences I have as an nHS psychiatrist all the time.
How many times has Harry had to join police, nurses and social workers to detain a psychotic cannabis user under the Mental Health Act, as I did a few days ago? This man needed urgently to be sectioned for his own safety and that of his neighbours, who lived in terror of him.
Of course not everyone who smokes dope will become psychotic. But it is a significant known risk, one that Harry didn’t even mention during his conversation with ‘trauma therapist’ Gabor Mate at the weekend, where tickets for the live- streamed event cost £17 (the price included a copy of Harry’s memoir).
Research by the Royal college of Psychiatrists shows that regular use of marijuana doubles the risk of developing schizophrenia or experiencing a psychotic episode – and that these dangers are more marked in young users.
Harry also didn’t highlight the evidence that prolonged cannabis use is associated with personality and behavioural change, especially social withdrawal and what psychiatrists call ‘avolition’ – a lack of self-directed motivation.
numerous studies have linked the drug to dropping out of school or university, lower income, greater dependence on benefits, unemployment and dissatisfaction with life – as well as an increased propensity to suicide.
As for his enthusiasm for ayahuasca, a mind-altering drink made from plants found in the Amazon rainforest including the Psychotria Viridis shrub, I am almost speechless at the stupidity of his endorsement.
Any qualified psychiatrist who promoted this drug as a panacea for all would probably deserve to be struck off. The Duke of Sussex has forfeited any right he might have had to be seen as a credible representative for mental health charities.
Ayahuasca causes paranoia and panic attacks which can do lasting mental damage – quite aside from its unpleasant physical side effects, which include vomiting and diarrhoea. Harry’s twee description of it as a windscreen wiper for the mind is a complete and utter embarrassment.
THekindest interpretation of his comments is that he’s been seduced by the fashionability of the drug, which is popular among the trendy middle classes.
He is promoting yet another quack therapy. His vacuous, self-satisfied waffle only goes to show what a sheltered life he leads.
He imagines he is a spokesman for his generation, and casually remarked that 99.9 per cent of people ‘are carrying round some form of grief, trauma or loss’.
This much is certain: 99.9 per cent of people did not grow up in a palace.
Prince Harry has to realise that his experiences are completely insulated from everyone else’s reality – and his selfserving words can cause immense harm to people whose lives he will never understand.