Former NFL Star Shane Olivea Overcomes 125-Per-Day Vicodin Habit

Shane Olivea

A former NFL player who nearly died from his opioid addiction is now sober and looking to provide supportive care to others 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.”