Addiction recovery isn’t an easy process. People in recovery still fight their addiction demons every day. Addiction is as much a mental struggle as it is a physical one. Many people who suffer from addiction also suffer from mental disorders such as depression, bipolar disorder, and anxiety, this is known as a dual diagnosis. These conditions make it harder for them to fight their addiction and be successful with their recovery. Over the years, addiction and mental health experts have found that animals can help treat these mental conditions and help make it easier for people to battle their addictions.


Drug Rates in America


As of 2016, the U.S. Surgeon General report on substance abuse claims that over 36 million people have at least used marijuana and 12.5 million have misused prescription pain medications. The report went on to claim that 8 percent of the population meets the criteria for substance use disorder or addiction. Drug and alcohol rehab is the most effective way to battle addiction, but it is difficult for many people to see that they are addicted. 

For those who do complete a rehabilitation program, many struggle to stay sober. Once they are out of rehab most return home and are around the people and places that trigger their addictions. Recovery is a lifelong battle and people in recovery from addiction fight temptation every day, especially in the early stages of getting sober. It’s not a quick fix and it is important for those who have a loved one in recovery to remember this.

However, for those who truly want to stay sober after addiction, there are plenty of resources available to help. The main resources for addicts in recovery are therapy and sober support groups. Sober support groups are a great tool that has helped many stay sober by meeting with like-minded people and learning how to deal with life without using. Therapy is another great way to help someone find meaning and purpose in their life, as well as help them gain closure on the underlying reasons they began using drugs or alcohol, to begin with. One overlooked resource that helps people remain sober is becoming a pet owner. 


How Pets Can Help Recovering Addicts

Dogs have been used to assist many people struggling with addiction and have become even more popular in recent years. They can be a healthy distraction for recovering addicts and can redirect someone’s focus away from the things that trigger them or make them want to use drugs. Pets can also help addicts cope with anxiety, depression, and other emotional and mental health problems that may have otherwise been a trigger for that person to turn to drugs to help cope with these struggles. Dogs also help humans with their recovery by giving them something to care about. Many addicts don’t care enough about themselves to quit using. Having a dog or pet to care for motivates them to push forward.

Many people struggling with substance abuse have also lost their family members and friends and feel alone. Dogs not only provide companionship but also give the recovering addicts a reason to stay sober and can serve as a major form of drug addiction help after treatment.

Laws About Service Animals

Some people struggling with substance abuse may have a disability due to the mental health struggles that can come with addiction. Service dogs help people with many different disabilities and have more recently been used to help recovering addicts. It is important to understand the law concerning service animals if you’re considering one for your recovery. 

According to the Department of Justice’s revised Americans with Disabilities Act, “Service animal means any dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability. Other species of animals, whether wild or domestic, trained or untrained, are not service animals for the purposes of this definition. The work or tasks performed by a service animal must be directly related to the individual’s disability. 

Examples of work or tasks include, but are not limited to, assisting individuals who are blind or have low vision with navigation and other tasks, alerting individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing to the presence of people or sounds, providing non-violent protection or rescue work, pulling a wheelchair, assisting an individual during a seizure, alerting individuals to the presence of allergens, retrieving items such as medicine or the telephone, providing physical support and assistance with balance and stability to individuals.” 


Hope For The Future

While dogs are not capable of making a person stick to their recovery plan and avoid drug use,

they can play a role in the success of a person’s recovery. Pets help people deal with mental illnesses and emotional problems that may have led the person to try or abuse drugs in the first place. They also act as a sign of hope for the future and give the person in recovery added responsibility and purpose. For many addicts, a dog is a part of the family and one of the first steps to rebuilding their lives and having the things that had before the addiction took over. 

They learn to depend on the dog for companionship and comfort, and they understand that the dog needs their care as well. For many, once a recovering addict has formed a relationship with a dog, whether it is their service animal or a household companion, dog, their attitudes about recovery change and they are more likely to be successful and avoid drugs.

This goes to show that animals such as dogs can greatly impact those who struggle with addiction and assist those in recovery. Animals can play a huge role in helping the recovering addict to reach their goals of sobriety, normalcy, and getting back to life as they once knew it.

For more information on helping a loved one in recovery, read this article and look into support groups for loved ones of addicts, such as Al-Anon.

Lauren Heath
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