Johnny Depp is opening up about his drug use on the witness stand.
During the first day of testimony in his libel suit on Tuesday, the Pirates of the Caribbean actor told a British High Court Judge he began using "at a very young age."
Depp, 57, is suing News Group Newspapers (NGN), the parent company of the U.K tabloid The Sun, for libel over a story that called the actor a "wife-beater" in reference to his former marriage to actress Amber Heard, 34.
Heard previously alleged that Depp had been abusive during their 15-month marriage, which he has since denied, claiming that he was the victim of domestic violence in their relationship. (Heard's lawyer Eric George denied the allegations against the actress, saying in a statement obtained by PEOPLE, "The evidence in this case is clear: Johnny Depp repeatedly beat Amber Heard.")
During the cross examination at Tuesday’s hearing, Sasha Wass QC, the lawyer for NGN, asked Depp if it was true that he "found drugs and alcohol" early in his life, BBC reports.
Depp agreed, saying that he started taking drugs "at a very young age, when it was not a particularly stable or secure or safe home life."
"My mother used to ask me to go and get her 'nerve pills' and I think I was around the age of 11 that it dawned on me that 'nerve pills' were calming her nerves, so I brought her her nerve pills and I took one and that began [my drug use]," he said.
Depp added that his early drug and alcohol use was "the only way that I found to numb the pain.”
In court documents obtained by PEOPLE, Depp said he was in recovery from alcohol and drugs during "significant parts" of his marriage with Heard, and accused the Aquaman star of encouraging him to drink and take drugs "instead of supporting my sobriety."
"It has been well reported and I have been open about my challenges with alcoholism and addiction throughout my life," he said in the witness statement, which was filed in December 2019. "In fact, I started drinking and taking drugs when I was still a child. I am not in any way embarrassed to say this. However, the way in which the Defendants have sought to portray this problem is not a fair or accurate reflection of the reality of addiction."
He added that his use of drugs and alcohol never made him "undertake violence against anyone."
Heard and Depp married in 2015. In May 2016, she filed for a domestic violence restraining order against him, accusing him of abusing her. Depp denied the claims, and the former couple settled their divorce out of court in August 2016 for $7 million, which she donated to charity. Both actors signed NDAs barring them from discussing their relationship publicly.
Depp’s lawyers filed a $50 million defamation suit against Heard in 2019 in the U.S. over her Dec. 18, 2018 op-ed in The Washington Post titled, "I spoke up against sexual violence — and faced our culture’s wrath. That has to change." While she never mentioned Depp by name, the actor’s lawsuit called her allegations against him a “hoax.”
If you are experiencing domestic violence, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233, or go to thehotline.org. All calls are toll-free and confidential. The hotline is available 24/7 in more than 170 languages.