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How cannabis may have helped Prince Harry’s mental health – the science and expert opinion

Prince Harry comments are not only relatable to many, but are backed up by a growing body of research.



Dr Niraj Singh, a psychiatrist and prescriber of medicinal cannabis, shared his experience and reflections on Harry's comments.

Prince Harry’s revelation that cannabis has helped his mental health is not only relatable to many, but is backed up by a growing body of research. 

Prince Harry has caused a media frenzy with his admission that cannabis helped his mental health. But far from the derogatory headlines and hashtags, he’s not ‘deluded’ as many are making out.

In fact, he’s just one of many who have found cannabis helpful to manage a myriad of mental health symptoms, thousands of whom are now legally prescribed it for this very reason. 

Speaking in an interview with the physician and author Dr Gabor Maté – who is well-known for his work on trauma and addiction – Harry revealed that cannabis ‘really helped’ at points in his life when he was struggling with his mental health. 

The conversation, which was live-streamed on Saturday 4 March, explored the trauma Harry experienced losing his mother Princess Diana in a car crash at the age of 12.

The Duke of Sussex opened up about his consumption of illegal drugs, admitting that he was using cannabis and ‘other drugs’ by the age of 17. However, while cocaine ‘didn’t do anything for him’, the Prince went onto say: “Marijuana is different, that actually really did help me.”

He also discussed his use of ​​psychedelics such as ayahuasca to help him ‘deal with the trauma and pains of the past’. 

While his claims have been widely criticised by anti-drug commentators, the revelation that made the front pages of the mainstream press, will have resonated with many.

The rise in prescription cannabis for mental health 

In the UK, cannabis is now legally available on prescription for a wide range of psychiatric conditions, including, anxiety, depression, PTSD and substance use disorder, alongside neurological and neurodivergent disorders such as Tourette’s, autism and ADHD. 

Data from Drug Science’s observational study T21 shows that anxiety is the second most common condition prescribed for, following chronic pain.

In the last few years alone, Cannabis Health has profiled the experiences of dozens of patients who say cannabis has helped them with their mental health. For some of these people their symptoms were so significant that they struggled to leave the house before accessing cannabis, never mind holding down a job or functioning in society. 

But it’s not just word-of-mouth which points to cannabis potentially having a positive impact on mental health. An increasing amount of  research is backing this up too.

Data from T21 revealed that 86% of patients reported an improvement in anxiety or depression after three months of medical cannabis treatment. The UK Medical Cannabis Patient Registry also found statistically significant improvements in anxiety, pain and sleep quality scores as well as general quality of life at one and three months following treatment. 

Researchers also reviewed data from 162 patients with PTSD enrolled on the registry. They reported experiencing an improvement in PTSD-specific symptoms, general health-related quality of life, sleep, and anxiety outcomes at a six month follow-up appointment.

Looking globally, in what is thought to be the largest dataset of its kind, Canadian researchers surveyed over 7,000 patients authorised to access medical cannabis products. According to their findings, published in 2022 in the journal Psychiatry Research, patients with symptoms of anxiety and/or depression reported sustained improvements following the use of cannabis.

Researchers at Washington State University also analysed data from hundreds of people who recorded their symptoms before and after cannabis consumption using the tracking app Strainprint. Their findings showed that in people who self-reported as having PTSD, cannabis reduced the severity of intrusive thoughts by about 62%; flashbacks by 51%, irritability by 67% and anxiety by 57%.

The science behind cannabis and its effect on mental health 

THC and CBD are the most abundant cannabinoids found in cannabis and are known to interact with the human endocannabinoid system (ECS) on various levels to bring about homeostasis, or balance, in the body. 

The ECS is a cell signalling system, found in all humans and some animals, that consists of various enzymes, endocannabinoids and receptors. These components work in synergy to ensure that different components of the body (for example the cardiovascular, immune, digestive and nervous systems) function properly. 

CBD directly interacts with the ECS and is also thought to affect the amygdala, the part of the brain that controls an individual’s emotions, motivation and emotional behaviours. Now widely available at many high street retailers, CBD is commonly used to help manage symptoms such as stress and anxiety and improve sleep. 

More stigma exists around its psychoactive counterpart, THC. While consuming high levels of THC can aggravate anxiety and induce feelings of paranoia, Dr Niraj Singh, a psychiatrist and prescriber of medicinal cannabis in the UK, explained that when used at the correct therapeutic dose THC can have positive rather than negative effects, particularly for trauma-related diagnoses such as PTSD.

THC binds to the CB1 receptors in the brain, which play a vital role in regulating anxiety and sleep. It is also thought that THC may reduce REM sleep, which causes intense dreams, making it helpful for patients experiencing nightmares, intrusive thoughts and flashbacks as a result of PTSD.

A preliminary open-label trial published in 2014 by Raphael Mechoulam and colleagues, found that THC caused a ‘statistically significant improvement in global symptom severity, sleep quality, frequency of nightmares, and PTSD hyperarousal symptoms.

More recently, a double-blind placebo controlled trial, published in November 2022, concluded that THC may prove to be a beneficial pharmacological treatment for PTSD, when used in conjunction with cognitive reappraisal therapy.

Dr Niraj Singh

Dr Niraj Singh

An expert’s view on cannabis and mental health 

Over the last three years, Dr Singh has treated numerous patients with medicinal cannabis, for conditions such as anxiety, PTSD, ADHD, mental illness associated with autism, and dementia.

Speaking to Cannabis Health, he shared his own experience and reflected on the impact that Prince Harry’s comments could have.

“The comments made by Prince Harry have caused much reaction, varying from people welcoming his candour, to those who feel his comments were irresponsible. It would have been helpful to know exactly how cannabis helped him in terms of his symptoms and his quality of life, ” said Dr Singh.

“Whilst this information wasn’t presented, his experience isn’t unique. People have benefited from cannabis for thousands of years, the fact remains this is a heterogenous plant, which has hundreds of constituents within it. When evaluating any medicine for prescribing, we always have to weigh up the benefits versus risks of harm. Statistics suggest that the vast majority who take cannabis, proportionately benefited by it rather than enduring harm.

“Having been prescribing over the last three years, I’ve witnessed patients benefiting significantly in their mental and physical health for a wide variety of conditions and with few minor side effects, if any at all. Cannabis is very well tolerated.”

Dr Singh added: “The evidence will continue to grow and there are many courageous advocates who are willing to share their stories. Prince Harry has been brave enough himself to share that he has benefited from it. How he has benefited from it is just as important, if not more.”

DISCLAIMER: This article is intended for educational purposes only, always speak to your doctor before making any changes to your medical care.

If you need support with your mental health, there is always someone you can talk to.

Contact: Mind  Tel: 0300 123 3393 / Samaritans Tel: 116 123 /


Home » Health » Mental health » How cannabis may have helped Prince Harry’s mental health – the science and expert opinion
Home » Health » Mental health » How cannabis may have helped Prince Harry’s mental health – the science and expert opinion

Sarah Sinclair is a respected cannabis journalist writing on subjects related to science, medicine, research, health and wellness. She is managing editor of Cannabis Health, the UK’s leading title covering medical cannabis and CBD, and sister titles, Cannabis Wealth and Psychedelic Health. Sarah has an NCTJ journalism qualification and an MA in Journalism from the University of Sunderland. Sarah has over six years experience working on newspapers, magazines and digital-first titles, the last two of which have been in the cannabis sector. She has also completed training through the Medical Cannabis Clinicians Society securing a certificate in Medical Cannabis Explained. She is a member of PLEA’s (Patient-Led Engagement for Access) advisory board, has hosted several webinars on cannabis and women's health and has moderated at industry events such as Cannabis Europa. Sarah Sinclair is the editor of Cannabis Health. Got a story? Email / Follow us on Twitter: @CannabisHNews / Instagram: @cannabishealthmag


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