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Are Athletes More Susceptible to Addiction After The Olympics?

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Every two years, the world gathers around their televisions to celebrate their nation’s greatest athletes as they compete in the Summer or Winter Olympic Games.  Most olympic athletes train their entire lives for their one or two shots at being glorified forever.  However; after the few weeks of games that these athletes have trained their whole lives for are over, some of the athletes realize they have reached their peak in the sport they have been training for all this time and the reality that they won’t ever be able to compete for their country sets in.  This realization can often be very devastating and depressing, causing some of these athletes to turn to drugs or alcohol to deal with their depression.

Olympics: Extreme Exercise Addiction

New research shows that over 30% of elite Olympic athletes have an unhealthy obsession with training and strenuous exercise.  The new study also shows that the biological mechanisms associated with exercise addiction can mimic drug addiction.  That means that if these athletes think about missing a day of training they will go through serious anxiety. These athletes develop highly addictive personalities and are at higher risk than the general population of developing eating disorders and substance abuse problems.

Post-Olympics Depression

Many Olympians never want to face their own retirement, especially if they didn’t achieve their goal of medaling in the games.   Some Olympians refer to the period after their final games as the post-Olympics let-down period, and many athletes become severely depressed.  They have to cope with the fact that everything they have worked their entire young lives for is over and readjust to society.  The depression they go through can have very serious implications on their lives, forcing many to turn to drugs or alcohol in order to cope.

Too Much to Take

While many Olympians go through at least some depression symptoms, for others their depression gets the best of them.  Amanda Beard, the seven-time Olympic medalist in swimming from America stated in her memoir that she had clinical depression, an eating disorder and also abused drugs and alcohol after her final Olympics.  Geoff Huegill an Australian swimmer used drugs, gained 100 pounds and contemplated suicide following the 2004 Summer games in Athens.  Elite athletes face not only their own personal letdowns, but they also can feel like they let down their family, friends and entire country if they don’t perform their best at the games.  That kind of pressure is too much for almost anyone to deal with.

While everyone all over the world enjoys the Olympics, there is no doubt an unbelievable amount of pressure on some of these athletes.  Many of the competitors have worked hard every day of their life for their one moment to showcase their skills.  That kind of build-up can have devastating consequences for these athletes when they decide to finally walk away from their sports.  Olympians are at a very high risk of developing an addiction to drugs or alcohol after the games which is one of the reasons more residential drug treatment programs are becoming available to those seeking help.

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