How pets can help people recover from substance misuse dependency

The Role of Pets in Substance Dependency Recovery

Substance dependency is a complicated neuropsychological condition characterised by the continued use of substances despite negative consequences to health, career, and social life. People struggling with substance dependency usually withdraw from social and recreational activities. Substance dependency is treatable, although the recovery process is riddled with challenges. Even though the recovery process might seem difficult, at the end of it is a life free from the shackles of substances.

In cases of moderate and severe substance dependence, expert intervention is necessary for safe cessation. Sudden unsupervised cessation can cause severe complications and may even prove fatal. Rehab Guide can help find the most suitable drug or alcohol rehabilitation centre in London.

Recovery Challenges

Substance use/misuse causes several physical and psychological issues. The symptoms of existing medical conditions may also worsen significantly due to substance use. The process of recovery is arduous and long. Through the recovery process, the affected person might struggle with withdrawal symptoms and relapse triggers.

In many cases, the root cause of substance dependency is an underlying distressing event, severe stress, or some other issue. One of the major challenges of the recovery process is dealing with the underlying cause. Withdrawal symptoms (such as hallucinations, nausea, vomiting, shaking) present another challenge. Affected people often face stigma and discrimination. Boredom, loneliness, cravings, money problems, and relationship issues are some of the other common challenges faced by people in the recovery process. The goal is to overcome these challenges and transition to a productive lifestyle.

Therapeutic Role of Pets in Substance Dependency Recovery

There are plenty of reasons why pets are also referred to as ‘therapy on paws’. Pets play a therapeutic role in these ways:

Comfort and Company: The love of pets is unconditional. During the recovery phase, the companionship of pets prevents people from feeling isolated and lonely. Pets offer much-needed comfort during the most challenging times. Because of pets, owners also have to go out, socialise, and connect with more people. Interactions can lead to the creation of a support network.

Boost Mental Health: Petting an animal lowers the level of the stress hormone cortisol. Additionally, the interactions between pets and their owners increase the level of oxytocin. Pets improve mood and help to deal better with negative feelings. Stress and negative feelings can potentially trigger a relapse. By helping their owners combat stress and negative emotions, pets aid and accelerate recovery.

Exercise: Pets need exercise to expend energy, to avoid unhealthy weight gain, for mental stimulation, and for regulation of bowel movements. For the sake of the animals, owners, caretakers, or pet sitters also have to be active. Such physical activity can help minimise aggression, curb cravings, and ease symptoms of withdrawal. Exercise also helps to undo some or most of the body damage wreaked by substances and improves overall health and fitness.

Productive Routine: Pets provide a sense of purpose and increase the sense of responsibility. Their needs (food, exercise, rest) necessitate the establishment of a structured routine. A structured routine will help avoid boredom, increase self-control, and improve self-esteem. These benefits will have a cumulative positive effect on the recovery process.

According to studies, animal-assisted therapy is considerably effective with patients in recovery programs. Animal-assisted therapy (AAT) complements other established treatments for substance dependency and helps maximise the benefits.
Wrapping Up

Pets help humanise the difficult process of substance dependency recovery. Pet therapy is effective as a non-pharmaceutical form of intervention. Although animal-assisted therapy cannot be considered a panacea, it can be used along with evidence-backed established treatment programs for a synergistic effect.

About The Author

Isabella Williams. Isabella is an experienced HR by professional and a writer by passion - blogging about mental health and employee wellness