Former Child Star Says She Was Given "Happy Pills" Before Interviews

"I had no idea what door that would open for me when it came to addiction," says actor Hayden Panettiere.

Her career includes performances in Remember the Titans, Heroes, and Nashville, but during her years as a young actor, Hayden Panettiere wasn't entirely herself in all of her interviews and appearances. In a new cover story for People, Panettiere opened up about her struggles with opiate and alcohol addiction and explained that her experience with drugs stems back to her teenage years. The actor claimed that, beginning when she was 15, one of the adults on her team would give her "happy pills" prior to red carpet appearances so that she would be more energetic during interviews. Now, Panettiere is able to connect that experience to her issues with addiction as an adult.

Read on to see what else the now 32-year-old star had to say and to find out how she's doing today.

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Panettiere said being a child actor was a "horrible" experience.

Hayden Panettiere at the premiere of "102 Dalmatians" in 2000
Evan Agostini / Getty Images

Panettiere got her start as a kid actor on the soap opera One Life to Live, and then moved on to another soap, Guiding Light, while also taking on movie roles. When the period sports film Remember the Titans, in which she plays a high school football coach's daughter, was released, she was only 11 years old.

In a video interview with People, Panettiere said of being a child star, "Being a child actor is… it's horrible. I would never wish it on my worst enemy. It's full of people who want things form you, who need things from you."

She was given drugs to keep her energy up.

Hayden Panettiere at the 2005 Teen Choice Awards
Featureflash Photo Agency / Shutterstock

As an example of the horrors of child stardom, Panettiere explained, "I had someone who I was supposed to work with, I was working with, who represented me, and she introduced me at 15 years old to the 'happy pill.' And I had absolutely no idea at that time what really drugs were or what addiction was, and she would give me this happy pill before I walked down the red carpet so that I would be peppy in the interviews." She added, "I had no idea what door that would open for me when it came to addiction."

In another recent interview with ABC News, Panettiere said that she now thinks the "happy pills" were "a form of Adderall," a drug which is used to treat ADHD.

"I had no idea what they were [at the time], but I knew that when I was given one and was sent down a red carpet I was lively and totally down to answer the questions and a chatterbox," she said.

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She developed an alcohol and drug addiction.

Hayden Panettiere at the premiere of "Tiger Cruise" in 2004
Tinseltown / Shutterstock

In her People interview, Panettiere said that it wasn't just the "happy pills" that were freely given to her.

"Probably when I was 13, I think there were several parties that I went to that I was served alcohol no problem," she said. "I didn't even ask for it, it was just offered. And the people that I was with—who were again supposed to be protecting me—were hammered and drunk."

Panettiere began to feel caught between two worlds: the entertainment business and life with her non-famous friends, who weren't ending up in nightclubs surrounded by adults.

Eventually, she began self-medicating with alcohol. "I think it was just my social anxiety that really, really got me, and I saw other people around me who self-medicate through things like that with alcohol," she said. "And so you try it and it works, you think it works, and then it gets out of hand and out of control, but that's a habit that formed for me. As I got older, it became something that I almost couldn't live without."

A low point came after she welcomed her child.

Hayden Panettiere at the 2014 Emmys
Kathy Hutchins / Shutterstock

Panettiere welcomed a daughter, Kaya, with her now-ex, boxer Wladimir Klitschko, in 2014, and suffered from postpartum depression, which she also tried to treat with self-medicating.

"I had no idea where my addiction started and postpartum started," she told People. "I didn't know where one started and one ended. I just was self-medicating. Never even thought about going to a doctor, never thought about getting on anti-depressants … It was me and the bottle. It was alcohol and it was opiates—it became opiates."

She went into treatment during her most recent hit show.

Hayden Panettiere at the 2016 Critics' Choice Awards
Tinseltown / Shutterstock

Panettiere started treatment for addiction and postpartum depression during the time that she was still on Nashville, which ran until 2018.

"I got myself to treatment," the star explained to People. "I finally made that call and I said I need help … Finally I realized that what was at the core of it was this unresolved trauma." She added, "I remember sitting there at the treatment facility and going, I feel content for the first time. And I have the ability to choose to laugh today, to choose to smile today, to choose to have fun today. And it slowly got better and better and better."

READ THIS NEXT: Former Teen Idol Says She "Was Living a Double Life."

She's ready to get back to work.

Hayden Panettiere at a screening of "Sharkwater Extinction" in 2019
Amanda Edwards/Getty Images

In her interview with ABC News, Panettiere shared that she is excited to get back to work. Nashville, in which she played a country singer, was her last project.

"I've been struggling for a long time and just needed a break. Four years ended up being the amount of time, and I definitely, absolutely did not expect it would be that long," she said.

It's been announced that Panettiere will star in the upcoming horror movie Scream 6, reprising her role of Kirby Reed from 2011's Scream 4.

'I'm getting back to work and that is so good for the soul," she said. "I just want to keep that ball rolling. I have a whole new team of people around me who are incredible people, who really believe in me and they have helped me to gain some trust back in myself." She also said that her recovery is going well.

"I'm good. It's an everyday battle, it really is. I'm grateful to say that I'm sober today," the former child star explained.

Lia Beck
Lia Beck is a writer living in Richmond, Virginia. In addition to Best Life, she has written for Refinery29, Bustle, Hello Giggles, InStyle, and more. Read more
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