Brett Favre’s Deadly Addiction Almost Cost Him His NFL Career

Brett Favre had one of the most prolific careers of any NFL quarterback in history. He became a household name despite spending most of his career with the Packers in Green Bay, the smallest market in the league. But this almost didn’t happen. A deadly addiction almost derailed Favre’s career.

Thankfully, the legendary quarterback overcame his addiction and went on to enjoy a two-decade-long career in the NFL. Here’s the story of Favre’s addiction to painkillers.

Brett Favre’s addiction to painkillers

Quarterback Brett Favre of the Green Bay Packers looks on with teammates during a 1996 game
Quarterback Brett Favre of the Green Bay Packers | Jonathan Daniel/Allsport/Getty Images

The quarterback was riding a high when he earned the NFL MVP for the 1995 season. But Favre reached a low point in 1996 when he voluntarily enrolled in the league’s substance-abuse program, which included entering a drug treatment facility.

Over the previous two seasons, the Packers’ leader had developed a dependence on painkillers. When he announced the news, Favre said he was “playing with pain and injuries,” and he had numerous surgeries, through which he “became dependent upon medication.”

The QB revealed he ultimately sought help after he had a seizure in the hospital after ankle surgery. Dr. John Gray, the Packers’ associate team physician at the time, called the seizure a “wake-up call” for the quarterback when “he realized that normal, healthy people don’t have seizures.”

Favre has admitted to once taking 15 Vicodins — half of a month’s prescription — at a time after gradually working up to that amount over a period of time.

Getting over the addiction

Favre has also discussed overcoming his addiction to painkillers. He said that “internally [he] hit rock bottom” and decided he was “going to flush these [pills] down the toilet.” But after flushing them, he “almost crawled into the toilet to go after them” because he was so dependent.

Fortunately, this was the end of Favre’s reliance on the pills, going cold turkey. He recalls that he “shook every night, cold sweats, it was a constant battle.” Those effects happen when you quit an addiction cold turkey because, as Favre admits, “any expert would tell you that’s not the way to wean yourself off.”

This didn’t seem to hurt his on-field play, though, as Favre continued to have a long, successful career.

Favre’s outstanding career

Favre faced obstacles in the first few years of his career. But he went on to have one of the best careers among quarterbacks in the league’s history.

He won the MVP in 1995, 1996 — while leading the Packers to victory a 35-21 victory over the Patriots in Super Bowl XXXI, the Packers’ first championship in nearly 30 years — and 1997. Favre’s Super Bowl title-MVP combo in the 1996 season made him one of only six quarterbacks to earn both honors in the same season.

Overall, Favre threw for nearly 72,000 yards, with 508 touchdown passes and 336 interceptions. His passing yards and touchdowns both rank fourth all-time in the NFL. He made a league-record 297 consecutive starts, and 321 including the playoffs. He also has the most pass attempts in NFL history, with 10,169.

In addition to his Super Bowl title and three MVPs, Favre made the Pro Bowl 11 times. He was the 1995 Associated Press Offensive Player of the Year. Given all he accomplished in his career, Favre was a lock-in to make it into the Pro Football Hall of Fame; he was inducted in 2016.