Brett Favre's struggles with painkillers during his time as an NFL player are well known. The former Packers quarterback and soon-to-be Hall of Famer battled addiction to pills during his tenure in Green Bay (notably in 1996 when he voluntarily entered the league's substance-abuse program) as he became the model for an iron man quarterback.
He has discussed them before, during a book he wrote, but the subject came back up during an interview on In Depth With Graham Bensinger, and Favre dropped some pretty heady information as to his usage during that time.
For instance, he once took 15 Vicodins at a time.
"I tell people all the time that I took 15 Vicodin ES at one time. And they're like, 'It didn't knock you out?' It did totally the opposite -- I was up. And that's kind of the way with addictions, too. What it's supposed to do, it doesn't," Favre said. "So when you take two pain pills, you're knocked out and you don't feel pain and you wake up, what, four, five, six hours later. I would be up just talking, I didn't want to sleep. Until about 10 o'clock the next morning when we were in offensive meetings was about the only time I wanted to sleep. Not a good time to sleep! And I would doze off, leaning back into a coat rack in our quarterback's meeting room.
"This went on for a long time. It wasn't just '96. That's when people knew about it because of the announcement. I don't know, it started three years before? I was taking pain pills before that but maybe not abusing them."
Fifteen Vicodin is a lot of Vicodin. Favre didn't magically decide to take them all one day or anything -- he told Bensinger he "gradually" worked his way up to the total.
"I don't remember the dynamics of how it worked, but say two gave me an effect I liked," Favre said. "After a month, two didn't do anything, so you needed three. And it may have been less [time] than that. And then four and then so on and so forth. I don't remember how long it took until you had to graduate to more, but I knew 15 was hard to come by."
Fifteen was a half a month's prescription for the painkiller, meaning Favre not only was knocking back two weeks worth of painkillers every single day, but he also was going around and asking teammates for pills on a pretty frequent/awkward basis.
"A month's prescription is 30 pills or whatever, depending what they prescribe to you, and I was going through that in two days," Favre said. "So I was having to hustle. I'd ask this guy for pills and that guy for pills. After a while I was going back around pretty quickly. I was the last one to know, it's one of those things. No one knows what's going on.
"Like my wife says, everyone knew. But I thought no one knew."
Favre also detailed how he quit, going full cold turkey one day when he hit rock bottom and decided to flush the last four pills he had down the toilet. The next month was not a fun one -- Favre even said it was worst month recovery-wise of his life and/or career.
"I shouldn't say kind of, I know things around me seemed like they were good, but internally I hit rock bottom and I said, I'm going to flush these down the toilet, the remainders," Favre said. "And I remember when I poured them in the toilet and it started to flush, I almost crawled into the toilet to go after them. Because I thought, what in the world did you just do, because I had such a dependency on those. I was taking 15 a night. Any expert would tell you that's not the way to ween yourself off.
"I just went cold turkey -- I don't say that braggingly, I just know that was the worst month, in terms of any kind of recovery, I ever went through. I shook every night, cold sweats, it was a constant battle."
The interview, which can be found below, is worth watching in its entirety, but the craziest thing about the whole story? This was the year Favre and the Packers finally broke through and won the Super Bowl, toppling the Patriots in Super Bowl XXXI.Wink of the CBS Eye to Pro Football Talk