Hayden Panettiere Reveals Secret Addiction Battle – Says Her Team Would Give Her 'Happy Pills' At Just 15 Years Old
Hayden Panettiere is opening up about a secret battle with addiction she’s struggled with for years.
The Nashville actress sat down with People for a candid new interview out on Wednesday. During the chat, she revealed that she has battled alcohol and drug addiction since she was just a young teenager — and it nearly ruined her life and career. Hayden revealed:
“I was on top of the world and I ruined it. I’d think I hit rock bottom, but then there’s that trap door that opens.”
After struggling for years with addiction and severe postpartum depression, she ultimately got help for the sake of her 7-year-old daughter, Kaya, whom she shares with ex Wladimir Klitschko, she noted:
“I put a lot of work into myself and I had to be willing to be incredibly honest.”
Just this last year, she underwent trauma therapy and inpatient treatment. But her journey hasn’t been easy or straightforward, the 32-year-old Scream star insisted:
“This hasn’t been easy and there were a lot of ups and downs. But I don’t regret even the ugliest things that have happened to me. I feel incredibly accomplished. And I feel like I have a second chance.”
The “ugliest” times began back when she was just a kid. She’d been starring in soap operas and in Remember the Titans since she was 11. By the time she was 15, someone on her team began offering her “happy pills” to help her walk red carpets — the beginning of what would be a very dark and lonely journey, she explained:
“They were to make me peppy during interviews. I had no idea that this was not an appropriate thing, or what door that would open for me when it came to my addiction.”
Ugh. It’s so awful to think someone on her team was giving a child drugs. Within a year, she had grown quickly hooked on alcohol and would occasionally take opioids, but thankfully, her role as Claire Bennet on Heroes kept her from going overboard as a 16-year-old:
“My saving grace is that I couldn’t be messy while on set and working. But things kept getting out of control . And as I got older, the drugs and alcohol became something I almost couldn’t live without.”
Things grew more complicated when she joined Nashville in 2014 as the troubled country singer Juliette Barnes. Suddenly, her IRL reality and on-stage persona began to mesh when her real-life pregnancy was written into the show, Hayden continued:
“Those were really tough years. I could relate to a lot of those storylines like the alcoholism and postpartum depression. They hit close to home.”
Oof. That must have been so tough. What was once a place for her to escape became a haunting mirror image of her everyday struggle.
While Hayden never drank while she was pregnant, she fell off the wagon after Kaya was born, leading to familial struggles:
“I never had the feeling that I wanted to harm my child, but I didn’t want to spend any time with her. There was just this gray color in my life.”
Her alcoholism and depression took a toll on her relationship with Wladimir, especially as she would sneak off to drink. Eventually, it was all too much for him to stick around and watch:
“He didn’t want to be around me. I didn’t want to be around me. But with the opiates and alcohol I was doing anything to make me feel happy for a moment. Then I’d feel worse than I did before. I was in a cycle of self-destruction.”
At her lowest point, the Bring It On: All or Nothing alum couldn’t live without alcohol in her system, she expressed:
“I would have the shakes when I woke up and could only function with sipping alcohol.”
And so, in 2018, she did the toughest thing a mother can do — she sent her baby girl away to live with Wladimir in Ukraine, after they’d called off their engagement that same year, she continued:
“It was the hardest thing I ever had to do. But I wanted to be a good mom to her — and sometimes that means letting them go.”
Of course, 2018 was also the year she began dating Brian Hickerson. The duo fell fast and hard for each other, but the relationship was tarnished with a string of alleged altercations and abuse allegations, for which Brian even spent some time in jail. In 2020, the actress finally opened up about the toxic relationship. It was messy and problematic AF, to say the least.
Looking back, we can’t help wonder if Brian took advantage of Hayden as they began dating? Surely, he must have realized she was struggling, right? If not, maybe they were both just enabling each other to continue seeking out their vices? It was certainly a sticky situation — and, unfortunately, remains one.
As we reported, the pair were last spotted together in March. Just like their past, this meet-up was met with controversy when Brian struck up a fight outside of a bar with fellow patrons. The disturbing situation left many of the actress’ inner circle worried for her, and now we can see why they were so resistant to the reunion if Hayden had already gone through hell and back to get to a better place with her addiction and mental health. It’s unclear if the duo are still in touch, but last we heard, Hayden was willing to give him another chance.
While it’s unclear exactly when Hayden first sought treatment, her final straw came when she was met with a medical condition she could no longer “bounce right back” from — though we have to think she was beginning to realize how complicated her life had gotten as well:
“Doctors told me my liver was going to give out. I was no longer a 20-year-old who could just bounce right back.”
Finally, Hayden entered rehab for eight months and it was because of the skills she learned there that she was able to “get over the hump” of her addiction. But it will continue to be something she battles for the rest of her life, she insisted:
“It’s an everyday choice, and I’m checking in with myself all the time. But I’m just so grateful to be part of this world again, and I will never take it for granted again.”
Now, things are looking much more hopeful. Not only has she continued to seek professional help when needed, but she’s also thriving in her career after returning to the set of the next Scream movie to reprise her fan-favorite role as Kirby Reed.
In her time off-set, she founded Hoplon International, a charity established in March to raise funds for Ukraine as they fight back against the Russians in a now five-month-long war. We’re sending Hayden our love! What a tough ride she’s been on…
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