Prince Harry Keeps Sharing: A Royal Talks About Substance Abuse, Grief & Trauma
The death of a parent. A distant father. A new marriage under intense public scrutiny – and even attack.
Combined, it’s a handful. Add to it the pressure of being sixth in line to the British throne, and you have a situation that’d likely test anyone.
Prince Harry has spoken for several years about his struggles with substance abuse and mental health. His most recent appearance took place in May on The Me You Can’t See, a show hosted by Oprah Winfrey on Apple’s streaming service. Winfrey’s show explores mental health via stories from people all over the globe.
Grief, Trauma Drove Substance Issues
In the episode – currently available for free at Apple’s site – Harry describes some of the pressures that drove him towards substance abuse. He describes his late twenties and thirties as a “nightmare time” marked by marathon drinking sessions and substance abuse as a way to cope.
“I was willing to drink, I was willing to take drugs. I was willing to try and do the things that made me feel less like I was feeling,” he tells Winfrey.
Harry also opens up about his past, describing his father, Prince Charles, as being distant and no willing to acknowledge Harry’s issues and requests for help, at one point telling Harry that he’d been through the same things Harry had and it was essentially Harry’s turn. “That doesn’t make sense; just because you suffered doesn’t mean your kids have to suffer,” Harry says to Winfrey. “In fact, quite the opposite – if you suffered, do everything you can to make sure that whatever negative experiences that you had you can make it right for your kids.”
This isn’t the first time Harry has spoken publicly about his struggles with addiction and mental health. In a 2017 interview with the Telegraph, Harry spoke plainly about the degree of grief he experienced after the death of his mother, Lady Diana, in a 1997 automobile accident.
Harry’s willingness to speak up is commendable; sharing your experiences is one of the most valuable things you can do in recovery. It’s also an illustration of why looking to substances for relief during stressful times is a mistake.
Drinking To Deal With It: Why Substance Use As A Coping Mechanism Never Works
Substance abuse and mental disorders often go hand in hand. While researchers are still unclear on the chicken-or-the-egg nature of the relationship, it’s been clear for a long time that people in crisis turn to substances like alcohol for comfort.
In 2019, the National Survey on Drug Use and Health found 9.5 million American adults had both a substance use disorder and a mental illness. Known as “co-occurring disorders” or a “dual diagnosis,” it’s a common situation in addiction.
The reasons for that are simple: substances, illicit or otherwise, make us feel better when we use them. Most addictive substances cause the body to release a neurotransmitter called dopamine. Used in the body’s reward system, dopamine is part of the reason we feel good when we partake in activities that make us feel good.
Normally, the body releases dopamine a drip at a time. Substances turn that drip into a flood, creating an overwhelming rush. Unfortunately, the system soon gets used to the elevated dopamine levels in the body. This creates what’s known in addiction medicine as “tolerance.” This means the user has to take more and more of the substance to feel the same effects … and to avoid unpleasant (and sometimes dangerous) withdrawal symptoms.
Eventually, these repetitive behaviors turn into an addiction.
For people who turn to substances for comfort, this situation can become even worse: the situations or issues which drove them to substance use in the first place are still with them, unresolved. Unfortunately, no matter where you go, there you are.
There’s a solution, however: drug and alcohol treatment.
Attacking The Problem At The Source
For co-occurring disorders, detox is just the start. A rehab provider works with patients to address the underlying issues driving substance abuse, whether it’s trauma, depression, or anxiety. This gives patients the ideal foundation for a lasting, successful recovery.
Substance abuse doesn’t discriminate; it’s a disease that can affect anyone. Prince Harry’s story is proof of that, but it’s also a powerful reminder of how effective sharing experiences can be.
The Edge Treatment Center uses evidence-based methods to treat dual diagnosis and co-occurring disorders. If you’re trapped by mental illness and substance abuse, we can help you find a way out. For a free evaluation and more, contact an Edge expert today!