Backlash as Prince Harry champions ‘self-medicating’ drug abuse

The Duke of Sussex has been widely criticised for suggesting that taking illegal drugs is a good way to cope with mental health problems.

Speaking to Dr Gabor Maté, an advocate for the decriminalisation of drugs, Prince Harry claimed cannabis and the hallucinogenic ayahuasca – which contains dimethyltryptamine (DMT) – had helped him deal with trauma.

As a Class A drug under UK law, DMT supply can result in life imprisonment. Supplying the Class B drug cannabis carries a maximum penalty of 14 years in prison and/or an unlimited fine.


NHS psychiatrist Dr Max Pemberton accused the Prince of “wading into the debate on mental health with reckless ignorance, oblivious to the facts and the catastrophic effects his words could have”.

I am almost speechless at the stupidity of his endorsement

He continued: “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”.

Dr Pemberton added: “He’s been playing Russian roulette with his own brain and, if he’s got away with it, he’s a lucky man”.

“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.”


The family of Jennifer Spencer, who took her own life in 2019 after using ayahuasca in Peru, also criticised the Prince’s comments.

If you have a vast platform you don’t mouth off about using illegal drugs

Her aunt, Fiona Chase, told The Sun: “He should not be speaking positively about this drug. It’s irresponsible because a lot of people look up to him.”

Fiona Spargo-Mabbs, whose son died from an accidental drug overdose, described his comments as “a concern for young people”, as they unhelpfully reinforced the false notion “that drugs are going to help them with stuff that is really difficult”.

And TV presenter Kirstie Allsopp, an outspoken critic of celebrity drug use, observed: “If you have a vast platform you don’t mouth off about using illegal drugs, the trade which kills people.”