Robbie back in rehab for prescription drug habit

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The Independent Online

He was only 33 yesterday and is one of the biggest pop stars in the world, with an estimated £100m fortune. But despite the cheeky-chappie persona, the demons that haunt Robbie Williams appear to have resurfaced again.

The singer, who famously fought a battle with drink and drugs more than 10 years ago, announced on his birthday that he has been admitted to a rehabilitation clinic in the US for addiction to prescription drugs, believed to be antidepressants.

Williams has been living mainly in Los Angeles for several years as part of his attempt to break into the US market and to escape the social scene in Britain.

Although yesterday's statement did not specify the exact type of prescription drugs, Williams recently admitted using antidepressants. Speaking on a BBC documentary on bipolar disorder with the comedian Stephen Fry last year, he said he had begun taking the medicine because he had feared a return to his drink and drugs indulgences.

More recently, Lisa D'Amato, a model with whom the singer had a relationship, was quoted as saying he was plagued with worries about his image. "It was clear he was struggling with his mind. He doesn't drink, but he needs antidepressants to get him through the day. A lot of the time he seemed on edge," she said.

Antidepressants are normally part of a group of drugs called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) that include commonly prescribed brands such as Prozac and Seroxat.

In The Independent yesterday, Kirsty Morrison, a survivor of the London bombings of 7 July, told of her cold-turkey-like symptoms when she tried to stop using Citalopram, an SSRI prescribed for post-traumatic stress disorder.

Pam Armstrong, director of the Council for Information on Tranqilisers and Antidepressants, said sufferers' biggest problem was trying to wean themselves off such drugs. She said: "People suffer anxiety, further depression, nausea, mood swings and cravings for sugar."

Although there was debate about whether such medicine was addictive, she said she had no doubt it was. "It can take months and months. People go into terrible shock and find it incredibly difficult." As someone in the public eye, the singer needed to ensure he had the time to wean himself off the drugs, she added.

Williams came to prominence with the boy band Take That and launched himself as a solo artist in 1995. His acrimonious departure and difficult start to his solo career led to his first addiction problems, mainly with cocaine and alcohol. He was treated at the Clouds clinic in Britain, a period he later said was "a black hole".

He eventually found success with the single "Angels", which became his signature song, and the album Life Through a Lens. A succession of chart-topping singles and albums followed, and he has now sold more albums and has received more Brit awards than any other British solo act.

However, his career has faltered over the past year with his last album, Rudebox, failing to compare critically and in sales with earlier successes. It was also felt he has suffered artistically after splitting with his long-term writing partner, Guy Chambers. Relations with his former band-mates in Take That are said to be good, although he declined to take part in their reunion.

Despite high-profile relationships with women, Williams has been constantly dogged by suggestions he is gay and won a libel case against some newspapers and magazines that suggested he was a secret homosexual. He has joked about his camp image, saying: "An awful lot of gay pop stars pretend to be straight. I'm going to start a movement of straight pop stars pretending to be gay."

Other star addicts

Matthew Perry

The star of Friends became addicted to the painkiller Vicodin at the height of the show's success and has been admitted twice to rehabilitation, in 1999 and 2001

Carrie Fisher

The actress daughter of Debbie Reynolds - best known as Princess Leia in the first Star Wars trilogy - is said to have suffered from manic depression, or bipolar disorder, since she was 15. After a 1985 overdose she was treated for an addiction to the prescription barbiturate, Percodan. She wrote about her experiences with drugs and alcoholin her book, Postcards from the Edge

Ozzy Osbourne

The heavy metal singer was treated for addiction to prescription painkillers. He claimed that his doctor had dispensed him 13,000 doses of more than 30 drugs in a year, including anti-depressants and an anti-psychotic drug

Jeanne Rankin

A regular on television's Ready Steady Cook and the wife of the celebrity chef Paul Rankin, has admitted to an addiction to prescription drugs, including morphine and antidepressants, which she was given for muscle spasms and depression.

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