Pets in rehabs help in addiction treatment

Pets are known to provide unconditional love; something many humans struggle with. Drug and alcohol addicts are perhaps the humans that struggle the most with empathizing and expressing positive emotions. This begs us to ask the question – what can animals teach addicts? Is it possible that addicts and animals can help each other? Rescue animals and addicts both need love and care; which, given the opportunity, they can provide for each other.

Animals make Addicts Optimistic

When addicts are made to take care of animals, they are forced to think beyond themselves. Alcoholics and drug addicts are characterized by not only their substance abuse, but also by an ego they create that prevents them from letting people in. When alcoholics and drug addicts are forced to think of other beings, their ego gets depleted. A connection with a pet will make an addict vulnerable, and will expose his or her emotions.

Addicts have an unhealthy relationship with the substance they abuse – whether it’s alcohol or any other drug. During recovery, addicts are made to replace this with healthy, functional relationships involving mutual love and respect. One such relationship is that of a human with a pet.

When addicts make emotional connections with other living beings, their dysfunctional emotional relationship with drugs or alcohol starts to mend. When an animal is around, the natural human reaction is to stroke, play or engage with it. Drug addicts and alcoholics, who do so, prove to themselves that they are capable of behaving like healthy, functioning humans. The bonds they form with animals show them that they are capable of love. Animals reciprocate love unconditionally, making the addict aware that he or she is deserving of love. This is something many addicts have difficulty believing.

A Biological Perspective

Pet assisted therapy is known to help patients with both physical and mental health issues. Studies show that being around an animal reduces blood pressure and heart rate, which can reduce the severity of withdrawal symptoms during the process of detox. The presence of a pet induces a calming effect by releasing endorphin, a “feel-good” hormone that is known to reduce pain, and slowing down the addict’s breathing rate. This effect is aided by the fact that pet assisted therapy is known to inhibit the release cortisol (a hormone that causes stress).

A New Addition to the Hope Trust Family

Knowing the aforementioned benefits of nurturing bonds between animals and addicts, Hope Trust has taken the bold decision of adopting our very own pet – Tara. Tara is a mixed-breed puppy who stays on the Hope Trust premises and engages with the in-patients. Recovering drug and alcohol addicts play with Tara between sessions and during their free time. The in-patients interaction with her ranges from sitting with her and stroking her, thereby relieving anxiety; to playing with Tara and taking her on walks with Hope Trust staff.

Hope Trust aims to engage with path-breaking, unique forms of therapy in order to ensure that all our patients make a successful recovery. We take pride in our involvement in the paradigm shift of rehabilitation techniques that is taking place internationally. Our endeavor is to supplement traditional methods of rehabilitation with unorthodox, innovative techniques. This is exemplified by our adoption of Tara. We are sure that she will aid our patients in their recovery and contribute to the positive and nurturing atmosphere at Hope Trust