Response to the Duke of Sussex’s comments about his mental health and drug use

This week has seen Fiona Spargo-Mabbs, founder and director of the DSM Foundation, approached by a number of media outlets for comment on an interview in which the Duke of Sussex talked about his drug use, notably that the use of psychedelics and cannabis had helped him “deal with the traumas and pain of the past”. The DSM Foundation, alongside other organisations and individuals, was concerned that these comments may normalise drug use for young people, and in particular suggest that illegal 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.


Fiona, 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.”


Interviews with Fiona appeared in a number of media outlets including The Times and Mail newspapers and websites, ITV News online, Times Radio’s Drive with John Pienaar, LBC Breakfast with Nick Ferrari, and Talk TV with Ian Collins. Fiona also featured on the Off Air show on Times Radio during which her conversation with Fi Glover and Jane Garvey expanded to also talk about her recently published book, Talking The Tough Stuff With Teens.