Few offer greater comfort than a pet snuggling on your lap at the end of a long, hard day. Pet owners hate having to leave them behind for school or work and dread what bad may happen to them in the meantime.
Having a furry companion can be a good emotional stabilizer, which is why pets can help with drug treatment. Others may leave or ignore you, but your furry best friend will stick with you through thick and thin.
Perhaps it’s another matter if you’re not really into animals, but pets can make tough times less stressful. Here are some reasons why you should consider treatment programs that accommodate your pet.
Can Animals Help in Addiction Treatment?
The benefits of animals in therapeutic settings are well documented. They help reduce anxiety in patients with psychiatric disorders, as well as lessen pain and depression. Companion dogs have been proven to be helpful to military veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
There’s no clear-cut answer to whether animals are effective in preventing addiction as the condition has many factors and variables involved, which include genetics, gender, mental disorders (if any), environment, and development.
The presence of pets can perhaps reduce likelihood of forming addiction, but they can definitely help in addiction treatment. From rehabilitation to aftercare, having a pet there can reduce stress and anxiety, as well as something else to focus on other than the withdrawal alone.
Remember that every patient is different, so consider factors like personal history and mental health to determine the best course of treatment possible, as well as whether having an animal to accompany them will indeed help.
Having an animal companion during treatment can help in increasing oxytocin in the patient’s body. Oxytocin is the feel-good hormone, and increased levels may help in curtailing the nasty side effects of withdrawal.
What is Animal-Assisted Treatment?
Not all animals are fit for helping with treatment. Before accompanying the patient in treatment, an animal may be examined by a veterinarian or animal behaviorist to see if they are healthy and have the right temperament for the job. Training is also involved to make the patient’s life easier during treatment.
That’s why finding a good therapy animal can be somewhat complicated. There are organizations like Therapy Dogs International, Good Dog Foundation, and Pet Partners that wholeheartedly promote animal-assisted treatment. They train animals for therapy and help bring them to patients in both healthcare and school settings.
Take note that animals aren’t the cure to substance abuse, but merely complementary to substance abuse treatment. If the patient happens to have an affinity for animals, this form of treatment may be considered.
Which Animal is Best to Accompany You in Treatment?
Most of the time, people equate therapy animals with dogs, but they’re not the only animals fit for patients undergoing substance abuse treatment. However, they’re the most common due to their temperament and affinity for humans.
But you can also have cats, birds, rabbits, rodents, or other pets (preferably housebroken) to accompany you in your treatment. There are also animal-assisted treatment programs that have equines (horses, ponies, donkeys) and other such animals to help with treatment.
With treatment programs that involve horses, they may even have horsemanship programs, although riding a horse is not necessary for therapeutic purposes. However, riding a horse can be beneficial as it can help you retain strength and balance. Spending time with a horse can also ease anxiety and stress.
There’s no best answer to this question. Consult with your treatment provider on what may work best for you during your treatment.
Reasons to Consider Animal-Assisted Therapy
- You Don’t Need to Worry About Leaving Them
A pet-owner with substance abuse problems may be apprehensive about leaving their pets behind while seeking treatment. Being able to bring them with you makes the process less worrying, which is why a pet-friendly treatment center should be considered.
- Pets Give Emotional Support
Pet therapy and animal-assisted treatment have helped people all over the world handle emotionally distressing situations such as health problems, post-traumatic stress disorder, psychological trauma, and so on. Spending time with an animal can increase the production of oxytocin in your brain, which can make you feel a lot better.
- Pets Teach Responsibility
Making progress in treatment isn’t just about getting clean, but also developing skills and habits that will carry over to a sober life. One of those habits is being conscientious and responsible, which is needed to stay clean and healthy. Having a pet can help someone relearn being responsible for both oneself and to others without too much pressure.
- Pets Help You Learn Emotional Intelligence
Another skill one has to relearn during treatment is emotional intelligence. Being able to manage and properly respond to one’s emotions properly is important to maintaining a sober life. Pets respond to your emotions and have their distinct emotional needs, so you learn to be aware of them as you take care of them.
- Pets Provide an Emotional Outlet
A big reason why people get substance abuse disorders is due to not having the proper emotional outlet. Having a pet can provide that, especially during treatment. Over time, as you become more sober, you’re able to sort out the underlying issues that may be causing your stress and emotional distress, thus addressing your substance abuse.
- Pets Keep You Active
Nothing encourages substance abuse more than being idle and sedentary. Having a pet can encourage you to move around more and even get some exercise, which can keep anxiety and depression at bay. Your pet will want to play and go on walks, which will compel you to become more active. It will also make your body healthier over time.
- Pets Eliminate Codependency
Substance abuse is often fostered in codependent relationships. Upon learning how a codependent relationship can be manipulated, it can be hard to relearn how to have a healthy and balanced relationship. A pet provides you companionship that can’t be manipulated, thus letting you experience a relationship that doesn’t enable your addictions.
- Pets Give You a Reason to Keep Pushing
Recovery from substance abuse is a long and winding road that most fail to navigate well. Many give up along the way due to the difficulty. But with a pet who provides you emotional support, you may have a reason to give life another shot and keep pushing.
Whatever animal you love, having one with you during your treatment can help with your journey to a life without substance abuse. Whether it’s you or your loved one who is in need of treatment, you may want to consider going to a pet-friendly treatment center to get help without having to entirely uproot one’s life.
You can still have a significant part of your life with you while you’re trying to fix it by getting substance abuse treatment. Having your pet with you can be invaluable as it teaches you to be more responsible while also maintaining your morale and reminding you why you’re getting help in the first place.