How Society Views Alcohol or Drug Addiction
Many people are still under the impression that alcohol or drug addiction is a choice; that those who have an addiction just need to “pull themselves together or just to say no.”. We live in a society that encourages individualism and perpetuates a general dichotomy that insists upon viewing the individual as either strong or weak. Success is measured in materialistic acquisitions – the strong drive a BMW and the weak take the bus. Anyone who cannot control whether they can stop drinking or using that drug is considered to have “low” character. Society views them as untrustworthy and unwilling to succeed. It is obvious that those who do not suffer from an addiction cannot see how truly difficult it is to overcome addiction. It is hard for them to sympathise for them. Whenever we hear about someone checking into a rehab center, we roll our eyes, look the other way, and judge them for their mistakes.
Is addiction really a disease?
Alcohol and drug addiction is a disease. Research has shown that the chemicals in the brain that are high in levels during an addiction is similar to those of a disease. Like diabetes, cancer and heart disease, addiction is caused by a combination of behavioral, environmental and biological factors. Genetic risks factors account for about half of the likelihood that an individual will develop addiction. Addiction involves changes in the functioning of the brain and body. These changes may be brought on by risky substance use or may pre-exist. The consequences of untreated addiction often include other physical and mental health disorders that require medical attention. If left untreated over time, addiction becomes more severe, disabling and life threatening.
Why people prefer animal assisted therapy?
For people who love animals, it is easy to see why non-human companions have become so popular in therapy. For scientists and others, however, there is still a question of whether it is worthwhile.
Based on case studies and anecdotal evidence, including animals in therapy sessions is calming and soothing, and it has helped many people feel more comfortable with and involved in treatment. An example of this is an article from National Public Radio that discusses many of the reasons animals are thought to benefit human health. From increasing the hormone that produces feelings of love and bonding, oxytocin, to helping to reduce stress and blood pressure, the physical and emotional benefits of having animals around have lots of solid scientific evidence behind them.
Of course, not everyone likes animals, and not everyone might benefit from animal-assisted therapy. But for those who are comfortable and happy in the presence of an animal, having this nonjudgmental, accepting companion along the path to recovery can mean the difference between frustration and hope. If you are looking for an inpatient pet friendly rehab that can allow you and your cat or dog to enter into therapy together, contact the number provided.
24 hour addiction helpline 888-325-2454
How having a pet can help you remain clean and sober
Studies have shown that having a pet in rehab can help an individual to recover and remain clean and sober. Even if someone does not have a pet of their own, some rehabs have therapy pets as part of the therapy process.
Animals love you. They love you no matter who you are, what your past is, and what you have done. With addicts, this is especially special because they are in a place where they are experiencing self doubt and negative feelings about their past and what they had done. Animals can help them look forward instead of backwards and help them to realize that there is a brighter and hopeful future ahead. They are non judgemental and are 200% forgiving.
Depending on what kind of animal you have, they keep an individual exercising. Exercising can help keep an individual’s mind off of the addiction that they have. If the therapy has a dog, then that is a perfect animal to keep someone on the move. Dogs require someone to take them out on walks, which will help keep the patient moving as well. A simple walk can help improve your health and help someone move forward into a health and stable future.
Animals give someone responsibility, commitment, and purpose. Having an animal requires someone to make sure that they have access to clean water, they are fed, they live in a safe environment, they get bathed, and generally well taken care of. Having a pet can help an individual have a sense of purpose and a real reason to get up in the morning everyday and to keep moving.
Pets can help teach an individual how to live in the now. Animals live without any worries. They are good role models, especially for a person who is a recovering addict. They do not sit around and wonder what is going to happen in a year from now or what has happened in the past. They move on and live life. What matters to them is what is happening in the now. For an individual who is worried about how what they have done in the past is going to affect their future, this is a perfect remedy.
They teach us how to appreciate each moment. When a dog is eating a bone – they are all in. When a cat plays with a toy, it is completely immersed in their task at hand. A valuable component of addiction recovery is appreciating the little things in life because it usually turns out those are the big things.
Different types of animal therapy
- Pet therapy is where volunteers take their gentle, trained pets to different settings, like hospitals or schools, to cheer up people who are dealing with difficulty, such as after surgery or during difficult treatments. This type of therapy is simple, providing the gentle joy of being around or petting a happy animal. It is not to be underestimated, however. Relieving stress can help the body produce hormones and neurotransmitters that aid in physical and emotional stability and health.
- Animal-assisted therapy, on the other hand, involves social workers, counselors, or other therapists who specifically involve the animal in treatment therapies. This type of work can be done with a wide range of animals, but two of the most commonly known therapies using animals involve dogs (canine-assisted therapy) and horses (equine-assisted therapy).
Animals are good medicine
- Companionship: Animals are an antidote for loneliness. On days when you’re feeling blue, you’ll always be around someone who loves you when you are around animals.
- Exercise: Most animals need exercise of some sort, even if it’s just cleaning their cage or tank. Animals help us get off the couch and moving.
- Routines: Animals thrive on routines, as do people. Many people in recovery need to learn the benefits of keeping a simple, healthy daily routine. Animals can teach us the importance of that routine.
- Investing in life: When you own an animal, you’re interested in something other than your own problems. While introspection and self-reflection are critical parts of recovery, taking an interest in something outside of yourself is also very important.
- Making friends: Owning an animal can help you make new friends. Other people at the dog park, people you meet walking their dogs along the street or other people at the barn where you take riding lessons are all possible friends. When you share a common interest around animals, you can make friends easily.
- Stress relief: Animals can help relieve stress and tension. Holding a soft, furry animal like a dog, cat, rabbit or guinea pig can lower blood pressure, heart rate and tension. Interacting with bigger animals can also relieve stress and tension.
24 hour pet friendly rehab helpline 888-325-2454
Animals helping depression
Depression is a complex disease involving both biochemical reactions in the brain and people’s reactions to life circumstances. Many people find themselves depressed for short periods of time. Losing a job, the death of a loved one or another situation can potentially trigger depression in certain people.
Even though depression can result into isolation and loneliness, people who are depressed often isolate themselves. They often stay home, not wanting to interact with other people, feeling too depressed to do anything or go out. That is where animals come into play in helping individuals recover from depression.
Companion animals such as dogs need daily care. Dogs must be fed, exercised and groomed on a regular schedule. Having a regular schedule and routine is an important component of healing from mental illnesses, including depression.
But companion animals of all types provide another important ingredient for helping people with depression. They make people feel less lonely. An animal in the house is another living being, someone with whom to share meals, companionship and snuggles. Animals do not care how an individual dressed or what you do for a living. They just love you for who you are, and they are happy to see you each day. Studies have shown that having a pet decreases isolation and loneliness among people with depression.
Animals may also trigger chemical changes in the brain that combat depression. Petting a dog releases beneficial chemicals in the brain including serotonin, prolactin and oxytocin. Many medications that treat depression target serotonin receptors. Oxytocin is the “bonding hormone” that helps people bond with one another.
However, the hormonal balance does not just change with increases in certain hormones. When you pet your dog, the stress hormone, cortisol, decreases, according to the same study. That means good hormones go up, and stress-related hormones go down. Petting your dog or another animal, may actually change your brain chemistry to make you feel better.
A separate study tested people’s reactions to their own dog, a friendly but unknown dog and a robotic dog. Petting any dog decreased blood pressure. Petting your own dog, however, was the only thing that increased serotonin levels. So owning a dog may be very good for people with depression, anxiety and other behavioral disorders, like addiction.
Animals helping addicts recover
There are many ways animals can help you in recovery. If you love animals, you will be glad to know your family pet has a place in your recovery program alongside sponsors, friends and therapists.
Caring for or interacting with pets can help in a person’s recovery journey.
- Laugh: Laughter is the best medicine. Recovery work can be demanding and draining. When you are around animals, however, you are almost guaranteed to laugh — and your pet may laugh with you. Scientists say that dogs, rats and monkeys are, along with humans, the only animals that can actually laugh. However, horses, cats, fish, hamsters, lizards, guinea pigs and all types of animals do funny things. Laughter is healing, and being around animals means you will smile more, laugh frequently and enjoy all the positive benefits that go along with humor.
- Think about someone else: Most people think about themselves a lot more than they think about others, and addicts are no exception. Yet when you own a pet, you have to think about someone other than yourself. That animal depends on you for food, water, shelter, veterinary care and affection. Owning and caring for a pet helps you expand your circle of care, build empathy, look outside of yourself and think about someone else.
- Exercise: No matter how small or simple the pet, they do take some work. Cages have to be cleaned. Dogs must be walked. Cats need playtime. Horses need exercise. Your physical recovery includes time for rest, recreation and exercise, and pets can help you meet all three goals. A daily walk with your dog, a ride on your horse or other playtime with a pet can give you some much needed exercise.
- Become more responsible: Addicts often struggle to meet and keep promises, both to themselves and others. Pets help their owners develop a sense of responsibility. When another life depends on you and demands nothing else in return besides affection and care, you begin to strengthen your abilities to care for others, including the people in your life.
- Develop accountability: Another area that many addicts struggle with is accountability. Being accountable is a skill you can learn. You will be accountable to your sponsor and perhaps your therapist during recovery. Your pet can also become an accountability partner. Your dog will hold you accountable for a daily walk. Your cat will make sure you’re accountable for feeding her. Pets love schedules and routine, which helps both you and your pet. It’s a win-win.
- Receive unconditional love: Having a hard day? Your pet is waiting to love you. There is something magical about the unconditional love pets give us. You can be having the worst day ever, and your dog is still happy to see you, or your cat wants to curl up in your lap. Pets teach us how to love ourselves even when we feel the most unlovable. For addicts in recovery, the unconditional love pets give can help them learn how to both give and receive love from others — and how to love themselves.
Do not own a pet? You can still benefit
Someone can still benefit from animals even if they do not own a pet. There are some ways an individual can still benefit from animals in aiding them in their recovery process.
- Volunteer at a shelter: Nationwide, millions of dogs and cats wait for their forever homes at public and private animal shelters. These shelters need people to volunteer their time and talents. Volunteer work at shelters ranges from cleaning cages and feeding animals to helping with fundraising, marketing and promotions. Shelters need help socializing animals that are up for adoption, assessing their temperament and helping them overcome painful pasts. If you love animals but can’t own one, volunteering your services at an animal shelter can lift your spirits and give you plenty of time around animals while contributing something positive to society.
- Volunteer at a rescue: Rescues differ from shelters in that rescued animals may or may not be placed up for adoption. Some horse rescues, for example, care for unwanted, abused and injured horses. These horses cannot be ridden again but still need care, grooming and attention. If you love horses, dogs or cats, such a rescue may give you plenty of bonding time with special animals without the expense of owning one. Look online for local rescues and contact them to see if they accept volunteers. Some require a training or orientation program to assess your skills, especially if you are new to working with that particular species. However, most provide training of some sort.
- Learn to ride horses: Horseback riding is a wonderful sport that offers exercise, time in nature and bonding with horses. You can take a trail ride just to get outside and enjoy riding. Lessons provide a structured hobby or sport that gives you time with horses as well as new skills. There are horseback riding stables nationwide that offer English or Western riding lessons for beginners. Group lessons are less expensive than private lessons and also give you the added benefit of enjoying time with others who share a similar hobby.
- Make a career out of it: If your recovery plan includes learning skills for a new career, then why not make animals your career? While most people think of becoming a veterinarian when they think about careers with animals, there are many other opportunities to work with animals of all kinds. Some jobs with animals include veterinary assistants, dog groomers, dog trainers, dog walkers, kennel workers and more.
Pets in sobriety can reduce stress
Owning a pet provides numerous health benefits, stress reduction and can even play a key role in helping you to stay clean and sober.
Countless studies prove that owning a pet lowers blood pressure, lessens anxiety and stress, helps fight off depression, boosts immunity, and more. For example, one study involving pet owners with AIDS showed that those with pets were much less likely to suffer from depression than those without pets. In yet another study stockbrokers with high blood pressure who adopted a cat or dog had lower blood pressure readings in stressful situations than those people without pets. In sobriety the stress of the ‘real’ world and the real-life issues that arise can be trying and even relapse-invoking. By combating the stresses and sadness in life with a pet, we give ourselves an even better shot at staying sober.
When we are stressed, sad, or depressed our bodies release harmful chemicals like cortisol and norepinephrine which can truly wreak havoc on the immune system. By owning a pet and playing with/engaging with your animal, pleasurable and calming chemicals like serotonin and dopamine are released. These chemicals combat the nasty side effects of stress hormones, battle depression, and help to keep your immune system in fighting shape. Interestingly drugs like cocaine and heroine have similar effects in the sense that they raise serotonin and dopamine, but clearly owning a pet is a much healthier way to feel good.
Not only is having a pet great for your physical and mental health, it can also instill a much-needed sense of confidence and boost self-esteem. Being able to take care of another living creature and watch it thrive makes you feel capable, caring, and responsible; feelings that are rarely (if ever) experienced while using. In our addiction we generally were not even able to care for ourselves let alone anyone or anything else, so having the knowledge that you can successfully keep a pet alive and thriving is a living, breathing testament to how much you have changed. Having a pet can also be healing, to care for something in a way that you were not able to care for yourself in your addiction is a great way to make amends to your body.
Know your limits and start small. For example, puppies need tons of care and attention and time, time that most of us do not have; the idea behind having a pet is to enhance and improve your life, not make it more stressful. Consider getting a fish, a lizard, or a mouse, something small and relatively easy to care for. Even cats are pretty easy and require very little aside from food, water, and occasional scratches behind the ears. The great news about the benefits of having a pet is that the type of pet is not contingent on how much of the benefits you get, so a small Bearded Dragon can provide just as much depression-fighting chemicals as a German Shepherd.
Dogs are loyal to humans and often help people to get through their drug and alcohol addiction. Animals just want to give us love and companionship. Anyone that gets near a dog says that they make you feel happy when you are sad. They often just want to play games and have us feel a sense of love, peace and understanding.
Dogs are loyal to humans and often help people to get through their drug and alcohol addiction. Animals just want to give us love and companionship. Anyone that gets near a dog says that they make you feel happy when you are sad. They often just want to play games and have us feel a sense of love, peace and understanding.
There are some pet friendly rehabilitation centers in the United States. A clinical psychologist by the name of Aubrey Fine says that “animals are good for us”. Animals make us feel needed and wanted because they give us love. There is a bond that you will always form with an animal that is special to you and that pet.
People that are getting help from pet approved facilities are: teenagers, young adults and those with low self-esteem. Many treatment centers are beginning to see the benefits of having animals becoming a part of their therapy. It in fact, makes a client feel understood, loved and wanted. This is something that an addict often does not feel.
Some dogs are being trained by prisoners in order to help them to learn to care for something. It helps them during the incarceration process. Prisons like the Utah State Prison is a fine example of how this program helps prisoners and veterans alike. The dogs are trained by the prisoners and then given to veterans that will be using them later on. Both the dogs and the veterans are receiving love and support.
Inmates often feel that they have a purpose when caring for the animals. They also get licks, happy eyes and faces when they see each other.
Many people trying to get sober say that pets help them to reconnect with feelings that they have not had in awhile. Women that have been physically and mentally abused often say that they begin to welcome love back into their life because of the unconditional love that an animal gives.
Children often feel connected to animals as well. Children that have been abused often find hope in recovery when a loving animal begins to show them unconditional love. They begin to feel a sense of affection that may have been lost for them.
When it comes to overcoming drug and alcohol addiction, dog therapy allows people to feel like they have something to care for other than themselves. Often, selfishness is part of an addict’s life.
Pets may or may not be an answer to recovery for your treatment center. However, psychologists around the world are now using pet therapy as a way to dig deep into their client’s lives. Many see this as a way of opening the heart of someone that can see no reason to.
24 hour addiction helpline 888-325-2454
Sober outdoor adventures
Dog is truly man’s best friend, and that holds particularly true for people in addiction recovery. Your pet stays by your side through thick and thin, never judging, always accepting you exactly the way you are – while also giving you a reason to keep pushing forward each day.
If you are one of the many people in recovery who have turned to outdoor activities as a way to stay active and healthy, a dog makes the perfect companion. In this guide, we’ll tell you where to go, what to do, and how to stay safe in your upcoming outdoor adventures with your four-legged friend.
Spending time outside, being active, and soaking up the sunshine (for that all-important Vitamin D) is one of the most effective ways to cope with the emotional ups and downs of addiction recovery. Plus, getting enough exercise improves your physical health and overall well-being, which in turn can lessen some of the symptoms (both emotional and physical) you might be experiencing in recovery. Regularly engaging in outdoor recreational activitiescan also:
- Reduce stress
- Relieve anxiety and depression
- Improve sleep
- Provide opportunities for socialization
Spending time with pets also offers a number of well-established (and similar) benefits, from reduced stress to increasing the level of oxytocin, a feel-good hormone, reducing blood pressure, and more.
Plus, outdoor activities can be beneficial to your recovery and overall well-being as well as your pet’s health. In other words, outdoor recreation simply makes sense for pet owners, with significant benefits for people in addiction recovery.
Pet friendly outdoor recreations
- Hiking trails
- Dog-focused events
- The beach, rivers, lakes, or streams
- Dog parks
- Take a walk to the local ice cream shop for a cool treat on a warm summer day.
- Sign up for a dog training or agility training course you can participate in together.
- Visit the local dog park for an afternoon game of fetch or frisbee.
- Take a day trip to the beach so your dog can frolic in the surf.
- Arrange a pet playdate with a friend and their pet.
- Get your pet a therapy animal certification and volunteer for the local hospital, senior living community, or other settings.
Outdoor adventure safety for you and your pet
Safety is paramount when you’re heading out on an adventure in the great outdoors with your pet. In most cases, your pet should always be on a leash. There are some exceptions. Some dog parks, for instance, allow dogs to be unleashed for periods of time. In general, it is best to keep your pet on a leash if you are venturing into unfamiliar territory or will be around new people or other animals.
If you are going on an adventure such as camping or hiking, be prepared with ample fresh water and a first aid kit (one for you and one for your pet). If you will be spending time around water, your dog should wear a life jacket. Likewise, if you’ll be spending time outdoors during the cold winter months, be sure that your dog is able to stay sufficiently warm. For shorter-coat dogs, that means a dog coat may be necessary, while longer-coat dogs such as Alaskan Malamutes or Siberian Huskies have built-in cold-weather protection.
Finally, you should take your pet’s temperament into consideration. Is your dog well-socialized and accustomed to quickly making new friends with unfamiliar people and other pets? If not, a trial run is advisable to ensure that your dog won’t become territorial or aggressive in the presence of unfamiliar people and animals. It is sometimes possible to train your dog to eliminate aggressive tendencies.
Ways pets help with sobriety
Anyone who arrives home after a stressful day to a dog’s ecstatic leaps or a cat’s steady, calming purr understands the benefits of animal companionship. Research shows that the human-animal bond has health rewards, lowering agitated behavior in people with Alzheimer’s and reducing anxiety in cancer patients.
But what about animal-assisted therapy for people dealing with substance abuse?
In an emerging trend, some substance abuse treatment centers allow patients to bring along household pets, incorporating furry friends into the care plan.
Reducing initial negative emotions
Loneliness, guilt and anxiety often plague people in treatment for addiction, particularly in the early phases. The familiar presence of a beloved pet may help soothe feelings of being overwhelmed and isolated.
Releasing good chemicals naturally
Caring for, feeding and playing with a pet increases mood-elevating brain chemicals like dopamine and serotonin. A 2015 study by Azabu University in Japan showed a link between gazing into a dog’s eyes and an increase in oxytocin, the hormone associated with lower blood pressure and feelings of love. Healthy stimulation of the brain’s pleasure center is a positive step toward recovery from addiction.
Decreasing sadness and hostility
A 2016 Washington State University study showed that adolescent boys in a substance abuse treatment program who played with shelter dogs every week experienced less hostility and sadness. The weekly one-hour sessions consisted of running or walking with the dogs, tossing toys, petting or brushing, sitting or lying with the dogs, and giving them treats.
After eight weeks, researchers evaluated positive and negative emotion scores of the boys who played with the dogs and another group of boys who instead hiked, played video games or shot hoops. The decrease in negative emotions in the group that played with dogs is promising, said study author Lindsay Ellsworth.
“Animals could be a huge asset in a recovery program,” she said.
Aiding in relaxation
Anxiety eases and blood pressure declines when people interact with pets. Pets also help people cope with stressful situations, an important tool in recovery. In a 2001 study of 48 people treated for high blood pressure with medication, half were assigned to adopt a dog or cat. After six months, all had lower blood pressure, but the pet adoption group showed significantly lower blood pressure in response to stressful situations.
“Learning life skills and a sense of responsibility is important in recovery,” said Tom Hill, senior advisor on addiction and recovery at the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment, an office of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration in Rockville, Md. “Being responsible for another living being besides yourself could be considered skill building for people in treatment.”
Engendering love and trust
Bonding with another living being and giving and getting unconditional love may seem foreign to people whose addiction has led to isolation and self-blame. The potential role of pets in building the ability to love and count on others is worth more study, Hill said.
Encouraging healthy habits
The mood-boosting benefits of exercise are important in someone’s return to physical and emotional health. A dog’s regular demand for a walk or a cat’s insistence on chasing a string might make it easier to get moving.
Reducing stress levels
Elevated levels of the stress hormone cortisol were associated with higher substance abuse treatment dropout rates in a 2009 study by the University of Maryland, College Park. Holding and caressing a pet has been shown to decrease cortisol. No data yet links higher treatment completion rates with pets, but enlisting pets to lower the stress response may help calm and reassure someone who is considering walking out.
If pets alone could conquer addiction, we would all show up with kittens, puppies, birds and bunnies for troubled friends or relatives. It’s not that simple, of course, but structured, disciplined treatment programs that combine the psychological comfort of pets may prove to be a significant frontier in addiction therapy.
Centers that allow animals
The health benefits of dogs for people in rehab has led to an increasing number of pet centers allowing them to attend. In fact, there are several luxury rehabilitation centers around the world that offer pet-friendly services. However, these centers,may be too expensive for many people.
Finding a less expensive pet-friendly rehabilitation center may require a little legwork. Simply call up centers you are interested in attending and ask if you can bring your dog. If they are hesitant or flat out refuse, try another center.
After all, if you think your dog is important to your emotional well-being during rehabilitation, you should find a center that will allow her. Just be prepared to travel or even pay a little extra for your treatment.
Taking care of your dog in rehab
Remember: taking care of your dog in rehabilitation is your responsibility, so be prepared to bring food, bowls, leashes, and doggie bags for when they go to the bathroom. You also need to manage its behavior and make sure it does not disrupt anyone else in the center.
That does not mean you can not socialize with your dog or take it to visit others. In fact, the health benefits of your dog may be transferred to them simply by its presence. A friendly, calm, and playful dog can bring smiles to their faces and may help their treatment go more smoothly.
And more importantly, it can increase your social integration among a group of strangers. Making those social connections can help build personal, emotional, and empathetic bonds that will make you feel less isolated during your treatment.
Centers that do not allow animals
Centers that do not allow dogs are still in the majority and there are multiple reasons for their exclusion. Some centers are unprepared to deal with dogs, either because they are too small, or lack the faculty to deal with the potential difficulties. After all, during your treatment sessions, someone will have to watch your pup.
Other centers are more concerned about kicking over a row of dominoes: if one person brings a dog, everyone will. And then they may have over a dozen dogs roaming the halls, competing for attention, and raising a ruckus.
What to do if they do not allow animals
If you find yourself forced to attend a rehabilitation center that will not allow your dog, you need to take steps to ensure it is cared for during your treatment. Thankfully, there are several dog care options available:
- Friends and family members
- Dog kennels
- Dog sitters
- Long-term boarding options
The latter two options are especially useful: dog sitters come to your home and watch your dog while long-term boarding centers will watch your dogs in an open, friendly, and relaxed environment.
Pet friendly rehab
Ridding yourself of the hold that drug addiction has on you by entering a rehabilitation facility can be emotionally exhausting. There are many blocks you may find in your road as you attempt to free yourself from this disease and start a fresh, sober life. One stumbling block that often keeps a patient from entering rehab is the notion that the common emotional supports within his life will have to be left at home. As rehabilitation centers expand in their programs and offerings, lending to the needs of very different individuals, this concern is being addressed more frequently.
While it would not be advisable to bring family members or significant others to rehab—as you should have a sole devotion to your recovery without their common presence within your program—emotional support can be found in your other loved ones: your pets.
In many contexts humans have had deep connections with animals in ways that lessen the word ‘pet’ and make these domesticated creatures much more like family members. In society today we see that pet owners would prefer that their furry loved ones be given the best of care in kennels and day cares. This bond that extends between human and pet is oftentimes forgotten during high-stress conflicts and drug-related problems. But these problems are the ones that often lead a human to seek out the reassurance and comfort of other humans, when a pet may have been an even better choice in terms of listening and providing unconditional affection.
Therapy from man’s bestfriend
So maybe you are a cat-lover and you would rather spend your days getting love and affection from a purring feline. A man’s best friend can be whom he chooses and often the emotional connection we create with our pets is not exactly of our choosing, but works as a support, nonetheless. Animal therapy has taken off as its own sub-genre of psychological techniques that provides a basic, non-threatening system of advocacy and confidence. Those who find themselves connected to their pets will also find that in seeking a sober life in rehab, they will experience moments during which their pet’s silent love will give them a boost that they need to continue on in recovery. They will know that support exists in many forms and that truly safe companionship in a difficult time can be had.
Therapy within rehab, with your beloved pet also comes in many forms. If you have the attachment to your pet that you feel could help you through this incredibly difficult time, you will come to find that a pet-friendly program will fit your needs in many ways.
Instead of going into a long-term program and feeling completely disconnected from the good parts of your former life, having your pet accompany you, even for just some parts of your program, can help you feel for comfortable in rehab. Many times, those around you who experienced the hardships brought on by your addiction may be those who need their own time of healing. Your pet can help you without making anything more difficult or stressful within the process.
-Being Taken Care Of
While you have given your pet a family, a home, and the love he needs, it is now your turn. The duration of your rehabilitation program will have its ups and downs. You may feel the need to take some time for yourself, and in these moments, you may find that having your pet with you makes it feel as though you have someone there to watch over you during down times. Pets often take the emotional lead in their own way, insisting on being there for you, knowing in some way that you need them beside you. Science has shown that many animals do sense stress and negative emotion, so in these moments, when pets seem to show us they care, there is enough to support the idea that they really do.
-Strength, Courage, And Optimism
More than anything, having your pet with you during drug rehab can give you the push that you need to continue to get better. Many dogs, energetic as they can be, show the spirit that is necessary throughout your journey to sobriety. The exercise they can participate in and that laughs that they so often provide may brighten your days in rehab and bring to your mind the idea that you really can do this; you really can succeed and someone truly cares to see you do it!
Rehabilitation With Your Buddy
Some rehabilitation facilities allow for your pets to stay with you in your room throughout your entire stay. It is important before you check into your pet-assisted rehabilitation to know that not all drug rehabs allow pets to stay long-term, nor do all allow pets to participate in every aspect of a drug treatment program. Here are some ways in which your pet may be able to help you through rehab:
- Scheduled visits
- Therapy pets and group visits
- Stay while cared for by animal handler
- Long-term, in-room stay
- Exercise with pets
- Pet walks and relaxation
- Emotional help through detoxification process
Drug treatment is intended to help addicted individuals stop compulsive drug seeking and use. Treatment can occur in a variety of settings, take many different forms, and last for different lengths of time. Because drug addiction is typically a chronic disorder characterized by occasional relapses, a short-term, one-time treatment is usually not sufficient. For many, treatment is a long-term process that involves multiple interventions and regular monitoring.
There are a variety of evidence-based approaches to treating addiction. Drug treatment can include behavioral therapy (such as cognitive-behavioral therapy or contingency management), medications, or their combination. The specific type of treatment or combination of treatments will vary depending on the patient’s individual needs and, often, on the types of drugs they use.
Treatment medications, such as methadone, buprenorphine, and naltrexone (including a new long-acting formulation), are available for individuals addicted to opioids, while nicotine preparations (patches, gum, lozenges, and nasal spray) and the medications varenicline and bupropion are available for individuals addicted to tobacco. Disulfiram, acamprosate, and naltrexone are medications available for treating alcohol dependence, which commonly co-occurs with other drug addictions, including addiction to prescription medications.
Treatments for prescription drug abuse tend to be similar to those for illicit drugs that affect the same brain systems. For example, buprenorphine, used to treat heroin addiction, can also be used to treat addiction to opioid pain medications. Addiction to prescription stimulants, which affect the same brain systems as illicit stimulants like cocaine, can be treated with behavioral therapies, as there are not yet medications for treating addiction to these types of drugs.
Behavioral therapies can help motivate people to participate in drug treatment, offer strategies for coping with drug cravings, teach ways to avoid drugs and prevent relapse, and help individuals deal with relapse if it occurs. Behavioral therapies can also help people improve communication, relationship, and parenting skills, as well as family dynamics.
Many treatment programs employ both individual and group therapies. Group therapy can provide social reinforcement and help enforce behavioral contingencies that promote abstinence and a non-drug-using lifestyle. Some of the more established behavioral treatments, such as contingency management and cognitive-behavioral therapy, are also being adapted for group settings to improve efficiency and cost-effectiveness. However, particularly in adolescents, there can also be a danger of unintended harmful (or iatrogenic) effects of group treatment—sometimes group members (especially groups of highly delinquent youth) can reinforce drug use and thereby derail the purpose of the therapy. Thus, trained counselors should be aware of and monitor for such effects.
Because they work on different aspects of addiction, combinations of behavioral therapies and medications (when available) generally appear to be more effective than either approach used alone.
Finally, people who are addicted to drugs often suffer from other health (e.g., depression, HIV), occupational, legal, familial, and social problems that should be addressed concurrently. The best programs provide a combination of therapies and other services to meet an individual patient’s needs. Psychoactive medications, such as antidepressants, anti-anxiety agents, mood stabilizers, and antipsychotic medications, may be critical for treatment success when patients have co-occurring mental disorders such as depression, anxiety disorders (including post-traumatic stress disorder), bipolar disorder, or schizophrenia. In addition, most people with severe addiction abuse multiple drugs and require treatment for all substances abused.
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Other ways pets benefit you
By simply spending time with animals you can get some of the same benefits of pet ownership. One of the best ways to do this is volunteer at a local animal shelter.
By volunteering, you not only get to reap the benefits of experiencing animals’ playfulness and unconditional acceptance, but you can also feel good about supporting an organisation in your community. You will meet new people and also learn how to manage the responsibility of being a volunteer — others will be relying on you to show up when you say you are going to. Helping others is great for your recovery and will give you a sense of purpose. Volunteering at an animal shelter can also be a great way to transition to pet ownership when you are ready.
Engaging with friends’ pets, or even seeking out specialised animal assisted therapy, such as equestrian therapy where you work with horses and their owners, are other ways you can bring animals and their love and healing into your life and addiction recovery.
What is recreational animal therapy?
Recreational animal therapy is the use of friendly animals (typically dogs or cats, but other ones can be used) to help alleviate a person’s suffering. The animal either visits with the person or lives at the center where they are staying. Each session, the person interacts with the animal in a relaxing and comfortable manner. The goals of recreational animal therapy vary depending on the circumstance.
For example, it has been used to help improve fine motor skills in people who have suffered from a stroke or other debilitating conditions. It is especially useful for children, as most typically love interacting with animals. However, recreational animal therapy is also useful for treating many mental health and behavioral problems.
The thing that we really love about recreational animal therapy is that it brings something new and exciting into the lives of people who are trying to recover from addiction. Seeing the friendly wag of a tail and hearing an excited bark often brings color back into their cheeks and a spring to their step.
Animals can help with anxiety
Pet owners often turn to their buddies as an escape from the anxieties of the world. The calm eyes and uncompromising love that comes from a typical pet cannot be replicated in any other way. A pet doesn’t judge you for your addiction or try to guilt you into quitting. They simply accept who you are and love you no matter what. But can pet therapy truly relax anxiety or is it just a placebo effect?
Animal-assisted therapy was associated with reduced state anxiety levels for hospitalized patients with a variety of psychiatric diagnoses, while a routine therapeutic recreation session was associated with reduced levels only for patients with mood disorders.
So recreational animal therapy not only reduced anxiety levels in people with multiple types of problems (including addiction), but it was actually more effective than typical recreation sessions.
Typical treatment method
Recreational animal therapy is typically performed by a trained handler who brings the animal to a rehab center. Once here, the pet is taken from person to person and given a few moments to interact with each of them. This gives everyone in the facility the chance to connect with the animal in a friendly manner. People who do not want to participate are not pressured or forced. Often, those who are not interested in partaking in animal therapy are either afraid of animals or simply allergic.
Patients are also paired with animals according to their preference and their past history with animals. So if you love cats but are afraid of dogs, you can specify having a feline friend. However, if you have a history of behaving angrily or even cruelly towards animals, you are not unlikely to be approved for this treatment. Thankfully, you’re likely not reading this if you hate animals, so you’ll probably do just fine with animal therapy.
Your time with the recovery animal can be spent any way you’d like. Take a walk with them on the premises of the pet friendly rehab center or play a game of fetch. You can even watch television with them while they lounge on your lap. The purpose of this therapy is to give you an outlet for your pain and anxiety and to create a more thoughtful and healthy mindset.
Animal therapy in addiction recovery
Many people know the feeling of being able to forget their worries when they are around animals. Pets, especially dogs, can be loyal, and the love they give is usually unconditional. For people recovering from addiction, however, pets can offer even more: They can assist with rehabilitation in countless and often unrecognizable ways.
Studies show that animal therapy can reduce tension and improve moods — avoiding some of the biggest predictors of relapse: stress and depression. Other benefits include lowered blood pressure and heart rate, and a reduction in the severity of pain from physical illness.
Service animals have played a significant role in modern health care practices, and therapy animals have begun to emerge as a popular addition to conventional psychotherapy for mental and behavioral health treatment. While animal-assisted therapy (AAT) is generally well regarded among patients, scientists have long been interested in its impact on patient well-being and outcomes following treatment for a variety of conditions, including treatment for substance use disorders.
AAT is not an independent modality but is instead a therapeutic technique that is used alongside an established evidence-based practice in order to maximize the benefits of treatment. Animal-assisted therapy offers a vast array of applications to meet patient needs for a variety of conditions—they include equine/riding therapy to assist with balance and minimizing aggression, using observation and identification of animals as part of cognitive rehabilitation, and training service animals to assist patients with specific tasks in their daily routines.
For psychotherapy applications, including treatment sessions for substance use disorders (SUDs), a trained therapy animal is generally included in individual and group therapy sessions, and patients are able to interact with the animal as the session is conducted. The inclusion of animal-assisted therapy with evidence-based practices has had marked success with a number of populations in improving outcomes among patients. Studies have found that AAT is significantly effective with adult substance use disorder patients in residential addiction treatment programs individuals mandated to substance abuse treatment as part of the criminal justice system and adolescents/young adults in inpatient and day treatment settings.
How does animal assisted therapy improve outcomes?
The inclusion of therapy animals in evidence-based treatment practices provides a number of therapeutic benefits that explain its success in improving patient outcomes. In treatment for substance use disorders, therapy animals improve therapeutic alliance and general regard for the treatment environment, in addition to reducing patient anxiety about receiving treatment, both of which have been found to increase patient adherence to their recommended treatment plan.
Therapeutic alliance refers to the quality of the interpersonal relationship formed between a patient and therapist, and it has been shown in several studies to significantly impact the likelihood of sobriety following an substance use disorder treatment intervention, as patients are much more likely to complete their addiction treatment plan as recommended when they share positive therapeutic alliance with the therapist. Therapeutic alliance is a complex aspect of therapy and includes various elements, including a shared understanding of the goals and activities for each session and the emotional bond between the patient and therapist. The strongest predictor of the quality of therapeutic alliance is the patient’s level of motivation at admission, although therapeutic alliance can also be significantly impacted by demographic and personality characteristics of the patient and therapist, as well as the level of similarity between patients’ and therapists’ backgrounds and attitudes. The inclusion of therapy animals during sessions often creates a platform for initial verbal communication between patient and therapist regarding shared positive attitudes about the animal, which can accelerate the development of a positive interpersonal relationship and improve therapeutic alliance in early sessions. Research has also found that patients tend to trust therapy animals significantly sooner than therapists in a new treatment environment, and therapists are trusted sooner as a result of their affiliation with the therapy animal.
Outside of the benefits to the patient-therapist relationship, animal-assisted therapy offers a number of benefits directly to patients. The anxiety and feelings of discomfort associated with the therapeutic environment can negatively impact the outcomes of substance use disorder treatment, as anxiety has been found to correlate significantly with patient relapse. Therapy animals have been found to significantly reduce patient’s’ physiological symptoms of anxiety during sessions. Animal-assisted therapy also provides the opportunity for the use of therapeutic touch for reducing patient anxiety and distress. Therapists are generally unable to use physical contact with the patient as an opportunity to provide support or reassurance, as it can easily be perceived as inappropriate; however, patients experiencing anxiety or distress may benefit a great deal from the nurturing feeling gained from gentle contact. Therapy animals provide a patient initiated opportunity for physical contact in the form of petting or even hugging the animal, which provides the therapeutic benefit of touch without the threat of discomfort.
Benefits of human-animal interaction
Interactions with animals could have a pronounced benefit on a number of areas, including:
- Interpersonal interactions
- Stress-related variables such as cortisol, heart rate and blood pressure
- Fear and anxiety
- Cardiovascular diseases
In addiction in particular, Beetz says, there’s some evidence of human-animal interaction lowering stress-related factors such as epinephrine and norepinephrine, improving of the functioning of the immune system as well as pain management, increasing trust toward other people, reducing aggression, enhancing empathy, and improved learning.
As a supplement to more traditional types of addiction treatment, animal therapy works by helping people to focus on someone or something else. By caring for a creature that’s dependent on them, especially after having spent a long time serving only their own needs in active addiction, people recovering from addiction discover the nurturing side of themselves. They can also gain a more nuanced understanding of what it means to be nurtured — something they may have never learned or have forgotten while they were using. Animals can help people in recovery build self-confidence and self-esteem.
Being around animals can have a calming effect to it. When people play or pet animals, there are physiological changes going on in their body. Their heart rate goes down, it lowers blood pressure, and reduces stress. Dogs known as therapy dogs are known to boost the health of sick and lonely people. Dogs are known to be good companions in assisting the blind or otherwise the disabled. Therapy dogs, on the other hand, offer a different kind of help. People usually get therapy dogs to help lift up their spirits. Some pay informal social visits to clinics or they work with trained professionals like physical therapists and social workers. This is to help patients reach clinical goals in their health.
How dogs help improve mental health
- They get you outside: Sun and fresh air elevate your mood and the sun gives you an extra dose of vitamin D. Vitamin D exposure helps fight physical and mental conditions, including depression, cancer, obesity, and heart attacks. Also, when you go outside with your pet, you are engaging with nature. Try taking a moment to listen to the trees rustling, feel the wind rushing past, and the sun upon your face. The sounds and feeling of nature can be incredibly calming.
- They get you moving: Walking your dog and engaging in outdoors activities like tossing a Frisbee gives you a natural energy boost, and allows you to let off steam. It also makes you more physically fit, strengthening your muscles and bones, which helps not only your body, but also your self-esteem. Studies have shown that animal owners, both adults and children, have lower blood pressure, as well as lower cholesterol and triglycerides, which may be in part attributed to the more active lifestyle pets promote. Pet owners also have been noted to have better circulation, and a lower risk of experiencing major cardiac issues. And when your body feels stronger, you are less susceptible to mental health issues.
- They lessen allergies and asthma, and build immunity: This one may sound counterintuitive, but children who grow up in homes with furry friends are actually less likely to develop common allergies. Studies have shown that children who were exposed to two or more dogs or cats as babies were less than half as likely to develop allergies, including dust, grass, ragweed and pet allergies, and were at a lower risk for asthma. Allergies can cause people to become lethargic, apathetic, and suffer from insomnia, which can make them more vulnerable to mental health issues, such as depression.
- Petting reduces stress: Rhythmic petting or grooming can be comforting to your dog or cat, and you. Concentrate on the texture of his soft fur, the warmth he radiates, and his deep breaths. When you connect with your pet, oxytocin, the hormone related to stress and anxiety relief, is released, helping to reduce blood pressure and lower cortisol levels.
- They both distract you and keep you present: Being present and engaged with your pet takes your thoughts off of the issues that are plaguing you. When you are fully in the moment, you are not worrying about the past or the future. It’s just you and your pet. Another way to keep distracted and present with your furry friend is to take photos or videos of his or her cute antics.
- They lessen loneliness: If you do not like to be alone, pets can be great domestic companions. Often a pet is very intuitive and will seek you out when you are feeling down, refusing to allow you to remain alone. Just make sure you can fully care for and love a pet before you take her home. Pets should not be used to fill a temporary void and then pushed aside. A dog or cat is a long-term commitment, and it’s not always easy, but if you are up to it, they can provide much love through the good times and the bad.
- They are great listeners: You can talk to your pet about anything — your day, your hopes, your dreams. You can practice a speech with them, lament about a breakup, or utter truths that you may be afraid to actually share with someone else. A dog or cat can be the perfect “person” to go to when you want to vent without any potential repercussions.
- They love you unconditionally: Seeing their enthusiasm when you walk in the door can be an instant mood-lifting boost. Their tail wagging, tongue hanging out their mouth making it look like they are smiling, the way their ears perk up. Their grunts or purrs. They do not care if you just screwed up a deal at work, or bombed a test, they loves you for being you, whatever that means on any given day. They are just happy to see you. They just want to be around you, to love you, and be loved by you.
- They can lessen your isolation: Dog parks allow for more opportunities for socialization for both your dog and you. Your dog makes friends pretty easily and will break the ice so you can connect with new people, and perhaps set up future dog dates, hikes, or play times at local parks. Your little cutie can be an instant conversation starter, and also a good way to get to know some of the people in your neighborhood.
- They can give you a purpose: Having a pet to care for can give you a feeling of purpose, which can be crucial when you are feeling really down and overwhelmed by negative thoughts. By caring for your pet, or another person or animal in need, you are focusing on something other than yourself and your life. Your good deeds, and your pet’s positive response, will give you a feeling of instant gratification.
- They make you smile: When your dog does cute things like rolling on his back or putting a paw up on your arm, he can make you smile, which in turn triggers neurotransmitters to fire. These pet-time smiles can raise your serotonin and dopamine levels, which are nerve transmitters associated with calmness and happiness.
- Playing is fun: With the grind of daily life, sometimes we forget to just let loose and have fun. Go ahead; wrestle, play catch, dance together, or just run around and act silly. Your dog will love you for it.
If you or someone you know is struggling with substance abuse and is delaying entering treatment because they don’t want to leave their pet behind, contact us and get connected with a pet friendly rehab today.
Pet Friendly Drug Helpline 888-325-2454