I just read an article about The Role of Assistance Dogs in Recovering from Substance Abuse. Individuals in recovery from drug dependence can find alternative methods such as through emotional support animals, animal-assisted therapy, and service dogs. These animals can help recovering addicts in other essential ways, such as establishing daily routines, forming healthy bonds, and providing loyal support.
Dogs are naturally gifted with a host of attributes that help their owners live longer, happier lives. They also have a long history of assisting people in difficult circumstances. In recent years, treatment protocols have expanded to take advantage of the ways that dogs can help prevent relapse and give patients in recovery a better chance at leading full, meaningful lives. There is life beyond addiction, and assistance dogs can provide a key piece of the puzzle.
“Clients may experience lower levels of anxiety and depression, begin to experience empathy, and build a positive sense of self-worth through caring for another being. After treatment, dogs can help recovering addicts stay active, reduce stress and loneliness, and provide a sense of purpose — all of which are instrumental in preventing relapse.”
Addicts who turned to substance abuse because of chronic pain will also benefit substantially from working with pets. In as little as twelve minutes, researchers found that visits with therapy dogs significantly reduced self-reported pain, fatigue, and emotional distress. Therapy dogs can decrease the heart rate, blood pressure and breathing rate; reduce the stress hormone cortisol; boost endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers; and benefit the immune system. Studies indicate emotional and psychosocial benefits of support animals, in addition to the task assistance that service dogs can provide.
Check out the article which outlines the research linking assistance animals to positive health outcomes, and offers examples of many ways that dogs aid the process of addiction recovery. Information about the types of assistance animals, including the training they undergo, can empower you to decide the best course of treatment for you or your loved one. Finally, a list of resources is included to help you find a support dog, or train your own pet as a service or therapy animal.
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