According to many studies, including one published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), pets provide numerous physical and psychological benefits to their owners. Pets can positively influence mental health and emotional well-being. Therefore, they are believed to be a resource of support during the process of recovery from addiction to drugs or alcohol. They may even help prevent the development of addiction in the first place.
Exposure to pets and pet ownership leads to reductions in stress levels. Furthermore, pet ownership leads to an improvement in quality of life through increased social interactions and improved overall health. Pet owners have lower blood pressure and heart rates than non-owners and report reductions in perceived psychological threats during stressful situations. Women and the elderly are particularly relieved of stress by the presence of a pet.
Pets reduce loneliness, not only due to their presence, but also because pet ownership is associated with higher engagement and interaction with neighbors, other pet owners, and the community in general. Pets increase physical activity for their owners since they need to be walked and played with to lead happy and healthy lives. In turn, their owners lead happier and healthier lives as well. Pets provide structure, support, and love for their owners, who, in turn, do the same for their pets.
For individuals with serious mental illnesses or diseases, including addiction to drugs or alcohol and co-occurring mental illnesses, pets provide multiple benefits. Pets assist in recovery from mental illnesses or addictions by:
- Providing empathy and “therapy” by seemingly sensing their owners’ depression or other symptoms, making owners feel cared for by their pet.
- Facilitating connections with others that assist in re-establishing social involvement by providing a tangible connection with their owners, making them feel noticed and understood.
- Serving as a substitute for “family” in the absence of human family members due to death or familial strains.
- Strengthening their owner’s sense of empowerment and self-worth by providing responsibility to something other than themselves, sometimes providing their owners with a new sense of purpose and a strengthened will to live.
Looking for Help?
While added responsibility can be a deterrent for some, most people report significant psychological benefits associated with pet ownership. These benefits include alleviation of physical, psychological and emotional struggles that may have been caused or perpetuated by addiction. While adding a pet to the treatment of addiction can help, there are countless other resources and recovery methods to support the journey towards health and well-being. Addiction is a multi-faceted disease that requires a multi-dimensional recovery approach. The road to recovery is a lifelong process. At Fort Worth Recovery, we offer a safe and nurturing space to support you on your recovery journey. If you or someone you know is struggling with an addiction to drugs or alcohol, call us today at 817-381-9741.