George Michael 'off drugs for 18 months'

image copyrightAP
image captionThe singer has a long history of drug-related arrests

Singer George Michael has said he has stopped his drug-taking lifestyle and not used cannabis for "well over a year-and-a-half".

The 50-year-old told The Big Issue recent health scares and time spent in prison shocked him into changing his life.

Michael has made no secret of his long-time use of cannabis and has a history of drug-related arrests.

However he said he had "completely stopped" using the drug.

"I decided to change my life and I haven't touched it," he said in his first print interview in five years.

The Wham! star received an eight-week prison sentence in 2010 after pleading guilty to driving under the influence of drugs, following an incident where he crashed his car into a photographic shop in London.

"Jail wasn't great. I just thought, get your head down and get on with it. It turned out to be easier than I was expecting because I knew I deserved to be there," he said.

image copyrightGetty Images
image captionGeorge Michael's latest live album was recorded during his Symphonica tour

Soap watching

A year later Michael suffered from life-threatening pneumonia while on tour in Austria in November 2011.

"It was very frightening... I was just so grateful to come out alive," said the singer, who added it was "a pretty horrible experience".

He had another scare last May when he fell of out his car while travelling on the M1 and was airlifted to hospital with a head injury.

The star said he was now living a much more sedate lifestyle and enjoyed watching ITV soap Coronation Street.

"I watch Corrie especially because it's more of a laugh. Even when life is tragic on Coronation Street, it's still funny," he said.

But he criticised EastEnders' for its treatment of gay characters.

He said: "I hope for their sakes and the sake of gay kids in this country, regardless of their cultural background, that EastEnders gets a clue and begins to acknowledge their responsibility and provide us with gay characters that have no reason to live in fear. We do exist."

A live album recorded during Michael's Symphonica tour is released this week, ahead of a new studio album next year.

Meanwhile, BBC One is to broadcast highlights from a charity concert the singer performed in Paris in September 2012.

Airing in April, it features some of Michael's favourite tracks accompanied by a 40-piece orchestra.

BBC Radio 2 will also broadcast a two-part documentary going behind the scenes of the Symphonica tour on 18 and 25 March.

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