Hayden Panettiere Reveals She's Battled Opioid, Alcohol Addiction Since Teen Years

The "Heroes" star said a member of her team encouraged her to take "happy pills" at just 15 years old.
"I feel like I have a second chance," said Panettiere about overcoming her addiction struggle.
"I feel like I have a second chance," said Panettiere about overcoming her addiction struggle.
Roy Rochlin via Getty Images

Hayden Panettiere is opening up for the first time about how her battle with addiction and postpartum depression nearly “ruined” her career.

The former “Nashville” star, who’s been a working actor since she was a toddler, revealed a secret struggle with opioids and alcohol that ultimately led her to enter rehab for eight months, as well as seek inpatient treatment and trauma therapy.

“I was on top of the world and I ruined it,” Panettiere said in a candid People cover story published on Wednesday. “I’d think I hit rock bottom, but then there’s that trap door that opens.”

“This hasn’t been easy and there were a lot of ups and downs,” she added, noting that she suffered from extreme postpartum depression following the birth of her daughter, Kaya. “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.”

Panettiere, 32, said she was first introduced to drugs and alcohol as teen, following celebrated performances in “Remember the Titans,” remarking that working as a child actor is an ordeal she “would never wish ... on her worst enemy.”

At just 15 years old, Panettiere recalled a member of her team encouraging her to take “happy pills” before walking the red carpet to appear “peppy during interviews.”

“I had no idea what door that would open for me when it came to addiction,” Panettiere said, adding that she was regularly served alcohol and partied at clubs well before legal age. “That’s a habit that got formed for me and as I got older it became something that I almost couldn’t live without.”

While she was able to sustain back-to-back jobs on long-running series “Heroes” and “Nashville,” her life and relationship with ex Wladimir Klitschko crumbled, as her addiction became all-consuming off set.

“He didn’t want to be around me,” she said. “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, the drinking resulted in Panettiere being hospitalized for jaundice with the doctors telling her that her “liver was going to give out.”

Wladimir Klitschko and Hayden Panettiere pictured together in 2016.
Wladimir Klitschko and Hayden Panettiere pictured together in 2016.
Sean Zanni via Getty Images

After giving birth to her daughter with Klitschko in 2014, Panettiere entered treatment for postpartum depression, which she explained only compounded her addiction issues.

“I never had the feeling that I wanted to harm my child, but I didn’t want to spend any time with her,” she said. “There was just this gray color in my life.”

Eventually, she made the difficult decision to send her daughter to live with her father in Europe, calling the choice the “hardest thing I ever had to do.”

“I wanted to be a good mom to her — and sometimes that means letting them go,” she added.

Tackling her addiction struggles head-on and sharing her story has led Panettiere to feel at her most powerful, as she looks to restart the career she almost lost with an upcoming role in the new “Scream” sequel.

The actor, who also has signed with the management company, will return as the fan favorite character Kirby Reed in the sixth installment of the blockbuster slasher franchise, which is set to hit theaters next year.

“It’s an everyday choice, and I’m checking in with myself all the time,” said Panettiere about what her life looks like now. “But I’m just so grateful to be part of this world again, and I will never take it for granted again.”

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