How Pets Help Treat Addiction

Finding a good fit between a pet and pet owner can be a challenge. Likewise, finding a drug treatment center that is high quality and will allow you to bring a pet to addiction or depression treatment can also be a challenge. But when a good program allows an individual to bring their pet with them to aid in their recovery, the results can be astounding.

The positive influence and bond between domestic animals and humans has been well-documented. We know that pets and owners can develop a strong emotional bond that can soothe, console and uplift, especially while going through addiction recovery. Humans with pets report lower stress levels than those who do not have companion animals and caring for an animal can help lower high blood pressure and improve symptoms of depression. Dog owners also usually get more exercise!

But some substance addiction treatment centers are finding that pets fit in perfectly with the recovery goals of stress management, improving physical health, and developing greater accountability and responsibility. Bringing their cat, dog, reptile or fish can help an individual feel like they have little piece of home with them and can actually lessen the likelihood of the addiction client leaving treatment before they are ready.

Caring for a pet, especially during the initial recovery period, stresses two important aspects of recovery: building nurturing relationships and resuming adult responsibilities and autonomy. In addition, pets provide unconditional love and affection, respond positively to demonstrations of affection, encourage playfulness and laughter and provide an outlet for activity, emotion and interest.

Treatment centers that allow pets are rare, primarily because of the special licenses and additional staff training that is required to have pets on site.  But there are some, such as Sunset Malibu, that have gone to the extra work and expense because of the benefits and success experienced by their clients. We allow clients to bring small dogs to the facility and have two dogs on site at various times, to help create the feeling of home. Hopefully soon, other centers will follow suit.