Former NFL Player Shane Olivea Kicks 125 Vicodin-Per-Day Habit

By McCarton Ackerman 01/10/17

The former football player spent more than $584,000 on his painkiller addiction. 

White pills.

A former NFL player who nearly died from his opioid addiction is now sober and looking to help others avoid going down the same path.

Shane Olivea, who excelled as a college football star at Ohio State University, was taking an astounding 125 Vicodin pills per day at the height of his addiction. He admitted to the Columbus Dispatch that he was high every day after first trying Vicodin at the end of his rookie NFL season with the San Diego Chargers. Olivea had a variety of contacts that he obtained pills from, including a cab driver he once paid $100 to drive to a “pharmacy” in Tijuana.

“It got to the point I would take a pile of 15 Vicodin and would have to take them with chocolate milk. If I did it with water or Gatorade, I’d throw it up,” he said. “You could buy anything you want if you had cash. I’d go buy a couple hundred Vicodin, or by then I’d progressed to Oxycontin.”

After spending $584,000 on his painkiller habit, Olivea’s health and performance on the field spiraled. The Chargers benched him towards the end of the 2007 season as his weight ballooned to 390 pounds. His mother eventually arranged an intervention and Olivea entered a California treatment facility in April 2008.

“[The doctors] looked at me and said, ‘We’ve never seen anybody living with that amount of opioids in you. You’re literally a walking miracle,'” said Olivea. “That was a punch to the gut.”

Olivea signed with the New York Giants in 2008 until a back injury ended his career, but he has remained sober since leaving treatment. He even re-enrolled at OSU in 2015 and graduated last December, at the age of 35, with a degree in sport industry.

While he considers job offers both on and off the field, Olivea believes his own experience with addiction will allow him to mentor players struggling with the physical toll of the game, and set them on the right path.

“If you got it, you can spot it,” Olivea said. “I can spot an addict in a public setting. I know the behavior. I know the tendencies. I know what he’s going to do. I’ll be able to notice somebody going down that slippery path and maybe catch them.”

In recent months, former NFL stars Thomas “Hollywood” Henderson and Ryan Leaf have also spoken out about their addiction and recovery.

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.