George Michael: Why I haven't touched drugs in 18 months after smoking 25 cannabis joints a day... and why I'm so glad Kate is stronger than my friend Diana

Clean: George Michael has given up cannabis

Clean: George Michael has given up cannabis

George Michael has kicked the drug habit that almost destroyed his chart-topping career.

The Wham star used to smoke 25 cannabis joints a day. But in an exclusive interview with today’s Event magazine he says he has been clean of the drug for 18 months.

George, 50, who once said cannabis kept him ‘sane and happy’, said: ‘I’ve completely stopped... I have decided to change my life and I haven’t touched it for well over a year and a half now.’

The singer has been convicted of driving while under the influence of cannabis twice and in 2010 served half of an eight-week jail sentence.

He made light of the drug-driving incidents in sketches for Comic Relief and the Ricky Gervais sitcom Extras. But he now admits that the four weeks he spent in Highpoint Prison in Suffolk ‘were not great’.

He said: ‘I knew I deserved to be there. I just thought, “Get your head down and get on with it.” But it wasn’t great. I was overwhelmed by the love and support they [the fans] showed. And it turned out to be easier than I was expecting.’

George, who has sold in excess of 100 million records, including his chart-topping 1987 hit album Faith, also discusses how he was ‘outed’ as gay in 1998 when he was arrested for lewd conduct in a public toilet in Beverly Hills.

Saying the episode ‘was what it was’, he revealed he was glad his sexuality was not revealed while his mother was alive. He adds he was pleased that Olympic diver Tom Daley has been able to talk freely about his own sexuality on YouTube.

‘I just didn’t happen to come out openly until after my mother died,’ he said. ‘It was for the best because I’m pretty sure the papers would have attacked me, and I think that would have hurt her.

‘But Tom hasn’t had that kind of problem, and as a gay man I find that hugely encouraging.’

New album: Symphonica will be released tomorrow

New album: Symphonica will be released tomorrow

George, who tomorrow releases Symphonica – his first album for seven years – talks of his 2011 health scare when he came close to death after contracting a virulent strain of pneumonia.

He admitted he had no idea of the danger he was in during the five weeks he spent in an Austrian hospital. He said: ‘It almost killed me. On a subconscious level, it was very frightening and I’ll probably never feel quite as safe in life again.

‘But I also remember experiencing incredible guilt for my family and friends, because they literally spent weeks not knowing whether  I was going to make it. For most of the time, though I was pretty much out of it, so I didn’t realise the danger I was in until after I’d come out the other side.’

Asked about the Duchess of Cambridge, George said his late friend Princess Diana would have approved of her son Prince William’s choice of bride.

He said: ‘I think she would have been incredibly happy for William and Kate.

‘And I think she’d also be really, really pleased that William has met and fallen in love with someone who has the strength of character to be able to deal with the sort of things that she couldn’t.

‘I know just how challenging and exacting that level of fame can be. It’s like living in a goldfish bowl.

‘Sometimes, especially during the Faith years, I felt close to lunacy.’