Dogs as Addiction Treatment


No, a dog can’t cure your addiction. But a dog can be a constant and loyal companion, a powerful tool for controlling stress and anxiety, and an animal that needs your care and love. These attributes make dogs important instruments for mental and emotional wellness. As an addict, a dog won’t cure you or be your sole treatment. Growing evidence does show, however, that caring for and having the companionship of a dog can help you in your recovery.

Dogs Are Loyal and Loving

When you’re an addict you tend to wreck relationships and ruin your ties to family and friends. You may have so-called friends who feed your habit and enable or use you. You may also have some true friends and family members who are still around to support you when you’re finally ready to ask for help. But for the most part, you have probably driven people away. When you find yourself alone and struggling with addiction, your dog will never leave you.

Unlike people, dogs don’t care what you do as long as you love them. They don’t get angry or upset with you and they don’t hold grudges. That constant companionship, unwavering devotion and total loyalty can be powerful. Just experiencing unconditional love from your pet can help you heal. You may also feel a sense of motivation to be worthy of that love and attention. You can learn to be the great person your dog believes you to be.

Dogs Improve Mental Health

Dogs have long been used in therapy for a number of purposes. Of course, they make great guides and assistants for people with physical disabilities, but dogs are also being used for mental disorders with successful outcomes. Some dogs are specially trained to assist people with post-traumatic stress disorder, severe anxiety disorder, panic disorder and any number of other conditions.

Scientific research has proven that dogs and other pets provide a host of health benefits. Having a dog around can cause physical changes, including lower blood pressure and improved and faster recovery from heart disease. Being with a dog also induces chemical changes in the brain that lead to stress relief, a sense of calm and peace and even improved self-esteem. If you are in recovery for addiction, these mental health improvements can help you remain well and resist the urge to relapse.

A Dog Gives Purpose

Perhaps the best reason for a recovering addict to have a dog is to have a living thing to care for and to love. There may not be much true research on the subject, but there is plenty of anecdotal evidence and stories of addicts saved by a dog. When you have a dog that depends on you for care, you have to step up to the plate and be a good enough person for that animal. He needs you and can’t survive without you. He needs food, water, shelter, walks, love and affection, vet care and play time. You can provide these things, but only if you kick the habit. If you have already been through rehab or treatment, having a dog dependent on you is powerful motivation to stay sober.

A dog can give you purpose and something to be sober for. He can provide you with unquestioning love and loyalty. He will happily relieve your stress and give you a reason to get up in the morning. But, before you adopt a furry friend, be sure you can take good care of him. He deserves nothing less than your best.

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