How Pets Help People in Addiction Recovery

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People have kept animals as pets for over 10,000 years. Whether it is man’s best friend or another little creature, pets can often bring us comfort where nothing else can.

During recovery from addiction to drugs or alcohol, the type of support that pets provide can help you get through the rough times.

When our lives are taken over by the powerful forces of addiction, people often lose their way in life. People may make poor choices, make new priorities, and forget to take care of themselves.

Animals can often bring us back to what matters most. They give a feeling of love that nothing else can and they remind people of who they once were.

Anyone who has a pet at home knows just how important they are. They become a part of the family almost instantly. They provide unconditional love and devotion and can brighten even the worst day with a single snuggle.

Pet adoption can help with your recovery

The early phases of recovery can often be the most difficult. As your body and mind adjust to a new way of thinking and feeling, a wide range of emotions can occur. Feelings of inadequacy, loneliness, deep remorse, depression, and anxiety are all very normal feelings in early recovery. You may feel overwhelmed by the new emotions, and not quite understand how to process them.

Having a pet in your life can make this process a little bit easier. The comfort received from pets is unlike any other. When the furry little creature that you call your best friend crawls into your lap and starts giving you their undivided attention and love, all of the world’s problems can seem to disappear.

According to the National Center for Biotechnology, research has shown that having a pet during the process of recovery can greatly improve your chances of a successful recovery and lessen the time it takes to recover. A 2014 study showed that when people who were recovering from addiction had regular interaction with animals such as dogs, cats, dolphins, birds, cows, rabbits, ferrets, and guinea pigs, these animals were an effective treatment for disorders such as depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, and drug or alcohol addiction.

Because of this research, many rehab centers are beginning to incorporate animals into their therapy programs. The benefits that animals can provide are excellent for a person’s well-being and overall health.

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How animals help with recovery

When a person is addicted to a drug or alcohol, they will face many challenges during their recovery. This is largely due to the fact that their brain has been rewired during the time they were using the substance. The drugs or alcohol changed the way the brain thinks and feels.

The brain releases a chemical known as dopamine whenever it experiences something pleasant. Whether it is the embrace of a loved one, a delicious meal, or sharing laughter with friends, the body is programmed to react by releasing a normal amount of dopamine into our system. This feeling is memorized by the brain so that people will remember it and seek it again in the future.

When a person takes in a substance such as drugs or alcohol, it ultimately reaches the bloodstream and brain. When the brain receives the substance, it causes an abnormally high level of dopamine to be released, giving an extremely pleasant or euphoric feeling. This artificial stimulation causes the brain to react in a way that encourages the person to seek more of that substance so that they can feel that same pleasure again.

Unfortunately, drugs and alcohol release such excessive amounts of dopamine that people are no longer able to feel pleasure from normal, everyday things. When beginning the process of recovery, it can be difficult to find happiness in much of anything. Your boy is still trying to get back to normal.

When introduced in addiction recovery, therapy animals can help stimulate the brain’s normal production of dopamine. Animal companions can also help you form healthy bonds and regain a sense of responsibility.

Types of pets for addiction recovery

There are a number of different animals that can be used successfully in addiction recovery, but some animals may provide more support than others. Some animals are more practical and would make better pets than others. Additionally, there are some animals that offer more love and loyalty than other animals.

Studies have shown the benefits of using animals such as dogs, cats, dolphins, birds, cows, rabbits, ferrets, and guinea pigs. While all of these species may provide benefit to people in recovery, they are not all necessarily practical. For example, it would likely be difficult to find a place for your new pet dolphin. Because of this, you will need to choose one of the animals that is more suitable for whatever your current living situation will allow.

Considerations before adoption

In addition to your living arrangements, there are several other things you will need to consider before bringing home your new best friend. Here are a few key points to consider:

        Commitment: Adopting an animal is a long-term commitment. Make sure you are ready for taking care of your new pet for the long term.

        Cost: Animals can also be expensive. They need food and water, and they also require regular visits to the vet, which can include costly shots and immunizations. Emergency veterinary visits for accidents or illness also add to the cost of owning a pet. Hiring a pet sitter or dog walker can also be expensive.

        Allergies: Before making a commitment to any type of animal, you will need to make sure that no one in your home is allergic to the type of pet you are considering.

        Time: Animals take up a lot of time. Most pets need to be walked several times a day. Depending on the age of the pet, it may need to be trained, which can be very time-consuming. If you travel often, you will also need to have someone care for the pet while you are away.

        Size: Depending on the type of living arrangement you have, you will need to consider the size of the pet you are considering adopting. If you live in a small apartment with no yard, you may want to consider a small caged animal that does not need to be taken on walks. If you have a larger home with space for a pet to roam free, you might want to consider a dog or a cat.

        Rules of your residence: Many residences restrict the type and size of animal you are allowed to have as a pet. If you live in an apartment complex, be sure to check with the manager to find out if there are any size or breed restrictions in your building.

Regardless of which animal you choose, owning a pet is a huge responsibility. Make sure you are ready to take care of another living creature before signing up for the duty. If you are unsure of whether or not it is the right time, consider asking someone close to you to help you with the duties. This can relieve some of the pressure while still allowing you the benefits of owning a pet.

Where to adopt

Once you have made the decision that you are ready to bring home a new family member, there are many places to find a suitable animal. Of course, the location for finding your new pet will depend on what kind of pet you have chosen. Here are a few good resources for finding your new friend:

       Humane Society: Check with your nearest humane society to learn about shelters in your area. These locations have animals that have been abandoned, have run away and never been claimed, or taken from abusive owners. While it may take a little extra time for the pet to learn to trust you, the fact that you rescued them from their former life will forever be remembered and repaid in the form of endless love.

       Newspapers & Flyers: When people have a pet that has babies, they often will put up flyers in their neighborhood or place an ad in the local newspaper. This is a common way to find many of the pets you may want to consider.

       Veterinarian: Starting at your local vets’ office is another great way to find your next pet. Vets and their office workers will know of many places in your area that are looking to adopt out a new pet. They can also help you learn more about what kind of care your new animal will require and how often you can expect to return for regular visits.

       Online: We live in a digital age. More and more people post online ads to share pictures and information about the animals they have ready for adoption. Just make sure that you are dealing with a trustworthy person.

       Word of Mouth: You may be surprised how fast word can travel when you are looking for a new pet. By simply sharing that information with some co-workers, family members, or friends, you may be able to find someone who knows where to get the pet you are looking for.

Animals for people who cannot own a pet

There are many reasons why people may not be allowed to own their own pet. It may be against the rules of the apartment building, or the landlord may not agree to it. Many residential addiction rehabilitation centers do not allow animals. Perhaps you have realized that you are just not quite ready for the huge commitment that comes along with owning a pet.

Whatever the case may be, you can still find plenty of ways to interact with animals on a regular basis. Here are a few to consider:

       Volunteer: You can find many opportunities to volunteer to work with animals at various organizations. Humane societies, animal shelters, and vets offices are always looking for regular volunteers to help with taking care of the animals.

        Sign up to be a dog walker: Do you love dogs but can’t own one of your own? Sign up to be a dog walker and get to know your neighbor’s fluffy friends. This will help you build new relationships with the people who own the animals, allow you some special time with their furry friends, and may even be a good source of income for you.

        Check with your local stables: Many towns have stable facilities where horses are kept for their owners. Some rehab centers even offer equine therapy for recovery. These are great ways to spend time with animals. You can enjoy your time with the animals and form important bonds with each of them.

Find your next pet now

There is no doubt that adopting a pet and taking it home to be the newest member of your family is a huge commitment. There are many things to consider, such as the size, breed, temperament, and cost associated with owning a pet. Be sure to carefully evaluate each animal you are considering to ensure you bring home the pet that works best for you and your situation.

Once you have made your choice of what type of animal you want, there are many places to find one. Check your local newspapers, pet stores, and vets’ offices to find some in your area. You can also look online for pets that are available near you.

Once you have brought your new pet home, you will soon find that the bond you will form with this creature is strong. It is based on trust, loyalty, and love – some things that only animals can provide at times. Adding this new pet to your arsenal of tools to help in your recovery can make all the difference in the world.

If this is a decision that you have made, don’t delay! Begin searching for your four-legged, furry friend today. You will be glad you did.

This informative article is a guest post from Matt Allensworth, who works at Pinnacle Peak Recovery in Arizona. Matt also has a personal passion for animal rescue and sees this outreach as an opportunity to help animals at the same time he’s helping people recover from addictions. You can read his original article on Pinnacle Peak’s website.