Prince Harry reveals he abused drugs and alcohol to 'mask' pain after Princess Diana's death

Prince Harry has admitted to using drugs and binge drinking to help cope with the trauma of losing his mother as a child

WINDSOR, ENGLAND - APRIL 17: Prince Harry and Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex during the funeral of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh on April 17, 2021 in Windsor, England. Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark was born 10 June 1921, in Greece. He served in the British Royal Navy and fought in WWII. He married the then Princess Elizabeth on 20 November 1947 and was created Duke of Edinburgh, Earl of Merioneth, and Baron Greenwich by King VI. He served as Prince Consort to Queen Elizabeth II until his death on April 9 2021, months short of his 100th birthday. His funeral takes place today at Windsor Castle with only 30 guests invited due to Coronavirus pandemic restrictions. (Photo by Mark Cuthbert-Pool/UK Press via Getty Images)
(Image credit: Mark Cuthbert-Pool/UK Press via Getty Images)

Prince Harry has revealed he used drugs and alcohol to ease the pain of his mother's death, having never dealt with the grief as a child. 

The Duke of Sussex opened up about his history of substance abuse in his new mental health docuseries, The Me You Can't See, admitting he used to drink "a week's worth of alcohol" on a Friday or Saturday night. 

In the first episode of the five-part Apple TV+ documentary, which was co-created with Oprah Winfrey, Harry explained how his unresolved grief led to anxiety and panic attacks in adulthood. The duke was just 12 when his mother, Princess Diana of Wales, was killed tragically in a car crash. 

"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 told Oprah. 

This habit of boozing and partying became particularly bad between the ages of 28 and 32 when Harry's mental health was at its worst. He added that he didn't derive any pleasure from the drugs and alcohol, using them solely to "mask" the pain of his grief. 

"I was just all over the place mentally," he said.

The young royal would attempt to stir up courage with self pep talks before public engagements, but they did little to relieve his anxiety.

Prince William with Diana, Princess of Wales and Prince Harry on the day he joined Eton in September 1995. (Photo by Anwar Hussein/WireImage)

Prince William with Diana, Princess of Wales and Prince Harry on the day he joined Eton in September 1995.

(Image credit: Anwar Hussein/WireImage)

"Every time I put a suit on and tie on … having to do the role and go, 'Right, game face', look in the mirror and say, 'Let’s go’. Before I even left the house I was pouring with sweat. I was in fight or flight mode," he explained. 

Harry chose to seek treatment for his mental health issues four years ago, for both himself and his relationship with his then-girlfriend, Meghan Markle. "I was going to have to deal with my past, because there was anger there, and it wasn't anger at her. It was just anger," he said. 

The duke attributes this anguish to his childhood, which was abruptly disrupted by the death of Princess Diana in 1997. He revealed he had never been given the opportunity to fully process the grief of his mother's passing and the trauma of his participation in her high-profile funeral. Prince Harry and Prince William were famously obliged to walk behind the coffin of the late Diana during the procession at Westminster Abbey, as part of a family decision Earl Spencer has since criticized as "cruel." 

"For me the thing I remember the most was the sound of the horses' hooves going along the Mall," Harry recalled. 

(L to R) The Duke of Edinburgh, Prince William, Earl Spencer, Prince Harry and Prince Charles walk outside Westminster Abbey during the funeral service for Diana, Princess of Wales, 06 September. Hundreds of thousands of mourners lined the streets of Central London to watch the funeral procession. The Princess died last week in a car crash in Paris. (Photo credit should read JEFF J. MITCHELL/AFP via Getty Images)

Prince Harry recalls walking the trauma of Princess Diana's funeral in 1997 

(Image credit: JEFF J. MITCHELL/AFP via Getty Images)

"It was like I was outside of my body and just walking along doing what was expected of me... showing one-tenth of the emotion that everybody else was showing. This was my mum—you never even met her." 

Harry also criticized the Royal Family for their "neglect" in helping Meghan, who considered ending her life in 2015 as a result of social media bullying. The Duchess of Sussex shared the heartbreaking experience in the couple's bombshell interview with Oprah, revealing that she is still haunted by a photo taken during the time when she was having suicidal thoughts. When it became clear his relatives would not be able to intervene appropriately, Harry realized he and Meghan needed to emigrate to the US with their son Archie. 

"That was one of the biggest reasons to leave, feeling trapped and feeling controlled through fear, both by the media and by the system itself which never encouraged the talking about this kind of trauma," he said. "Certainly, now I will never be bullied into silence." 

Emma Dooney
Emma Dooney

Emma is a news writer for woman&home and My Imperfect Life. She covers the Royal Family and the entertainment world, as well as the occasional health or lifestyle story. When she's not reporting on the British monarchy and A-list celebs, you can find her whipping up vegan treats and running the roads to cheesy '90s pop music...but not at the same time, obviously.