Over the weekend, the DSM Foundation has been approached by a number of media outlets, asking for comment on an interview the Duke of Sussex has done during which he talked about his drug use, notably the use of psychedelics and cannabis to “deal with the traumas and pain of the past”. The DSM Foundation, alongside other organisations and individuals, has expressed concerns that these comments may normalise drug use, and in particular suggest that drugs offer a therapeutic option for mental health needs.
Fiona Spargo-Mabbs OBE, founder and director of the DSM Foundation, a drugs education charity, commented: “It is understandable that when people are struggling, they look around for ways to cope. This is particularly true of young people, an increasing number of whom we know have been struggling with their mental health during and since Covid, yet who are unable to access support services because they are so stretched.
“Given this context, Prince Harry’s comments about using drugs as a way of dealing with past trauma could easily be misconstrued as being true across the board. While there is some really interesting work being done around the use of certain substances in a therapeutic context, particularly psychedelics, it is still very much at an experimental stage, and in a controlled, clinical environment.
“The most recent NHS Digital data shows that for the first time, the second biggest reason both 11 and 13 year olds gave for using drugs on the first occasion was to help them cope with their problems, so even at that young age they’re getting a message from somewhere that controlled substances are going to help them to deal with difficult things. And for young people, taking any form of drugs has the potential to have an additional lasting negative impact, simply because their brains are still developing and maturing up until their mid-20s.
Mrs Spargo-Mabbs, who founded the DSM Foundation when her son Daniel died after taking an accidental overdose of ecstasy, added: “There is also an increased risk of dependency in young people – this happens to around one in 10 who experiment with drugs – and more so in those who use drugs as a coping strategy. So it is vital that anyone who is struggling with their mental health doesn’t go for what might seem a quick fix, but instead looks for longer-term and evidence-based solutions such as talking therapies, and even reaching out to trusted family and friends.”