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BBC

TV favourite Ant McPartlin has completed his first week of rehab for drink and drug abuse and is ‘doing well.’

Friends say that the much-loved star of ITV shows such as Britain’s Got Talent and I’m A Celebrity say that he is “drawing strength” from the outpouring of support from colleagues and millions of fans alike.

Long-time TV partner Dec Donnelly was left reeling after Ant’s shock revelation that he had become addicted to prescription painkillers, alcohol and other substances after a botched knee operation two years ago.

When ITV bosses realised the full extent to which Ant’s problems went, they told him to take as long as he needs to recover – even if it means missing the new series of I’m A Celebrity, on our screens this November, leaving his long time TV partner and real-life best friend Dec to present solo for the first time in over two decades.

But old pals from Byker Grove – the series that brought Geordie duo Ant and Dec together as PJ and Duncan – insist he will bounce back from his booze and pill vices and resume their TV double act.

Ant’s former girlfriend and Byker co-star Nicola Bell said: “We’re still in touch and still friends and I know that Ant is doing well, thankfully.”

The married mum-of-one, who played Debbie Dobson in the drama, added: “He’s had some lovely messages from people and a lot of support and that obviously means a lot.”

Billy Fane, 69, who played youth club leader Geoff, said: “I was really sorry to hear of the problems he’s been having and I wish him a quick recovery. He’s a lovely hard working lad.”

Lyndyann Barrass, 41, who played Spuggie, added: “Ant knows my thoughts are with him.”

His problems began after he became hooked on the strong painkiller Tramadol to ease the pain in his knee.

That addiction is said to have snowballed into secret heavy boozing and problems with substance abuse.

His depression has apparently been exacerbated by unsuccessful attempts to start a family with his devoted wife Lisa, 40, who he wed in 2006.

He will spend at least two months and could yet end up taking a year off.

Dec could take on solo projects while his partner recovers. After I’m a Celeb in November, Ant and Dec’s next commitments are Saturday Night Takeaway and Britain’s Got Talent next February.

The Geordie duo, both 41, shot to fame as PJ and Duncan in the BBC series in the 1990s before forging one of the most successful partnerships in TV history. Last year they raked in £29.5million, which amounts to £79,000 a day.

But Dec and his wife Ali, 39, had no clue that Ant had slipped into a pit of despair until he called them over to his home, just a few doors from theirs, in Chiswick, West London.

“It was a bit of a bombshell for Dec. He had no idea of the full extent of the torment his best friend was going through,” a source revealed.

Last week Ant courageously released a statement, saying: “The first step is to admit to yourself you need help. I’ve let people down. I’m truly sorry. I want to thank my wife, family and closest friends through this really difficult time.

“I have spoken out because I think it is important that people ask for help if they are going through a rough time and get the proper treatment to help their recovery.”

A pal said: “This is not the end for Ant and Dec. They love each other and people love them.

“And by being so honest about his demons Ant’s made them love him even more.”