Pawsitive Reinforcement: How Pets Can Help Individuals Overcome Substance Abuse

Sometimes, it takes more than a human approach to resolve mental health issues; this is where the furry friends come in.

Pets are known for providing companionship and love without judgment. For a person struggling with overcoming substance abuse, it might just be what they need to respond positively to therapy sessions.

Here are more pawsitive reasons to involve pets in your substance abuse therapy.

man running with dog

Benefits of Involving Pets in Substance Abuse Therapy

Playtime with a dog or cat can induce the release of feel-good neurotransmitters like serotonin, dopamine, oxytocin, and endorphins. They make the individual undergoing substance abuse therapy more willing to accept the treatment.

You can learn more about how some rehabs use pets in substance abuse treatment plans to give the following benefits.

Reduce Stress by Boosting Mood

Having a substance use disorder can be a nerve-racking experience, especially if you struggle with quitting the use of a drug. A little playtime with a dog or cat can help reduce your stress levels so that you can respond positively to other substance abuse therapies.

It may even help prevent the occurrence of other co-occurring mental disorders like depression and anxiety.

Some Pets Can Induce a Feeling of Safety

Plenty of psychological issues will make an individual prone to substance abuse disorder. One of them is the feeling of insecurity with their emotions, feelings, and physical well-being.

Having a pet near you can alleviate insecurity and loneliness since they provide unconditional love. Dogs are particularly effective in this role as they provide physical security, not letting any threats near you.

cat in woman's hands

Pets Can Provide a Good Distraction Through Physical Exercise

People who don’t move around much may succumb to adverse psychological conditions like depression. Sometimes these conditions are the starting points of substance abuse as a coping mechanism.

When you have an active playmate in the form of a pet, moving about is part of your routine. Dogs especially require walks, meaning you’ll leave the house to walk your furry friend. Other times you may even play fetch and frisbee.

It naturally boosts your physical health, which keeps your mental health in check.

Can Create a Basis for Healthy Socialization

Substance abuse often creates conflicts in an individual’s school, work, and social life. As a result, it can make them self-isolate to reduce the conflicts that they cause. Having a pet during this period may help establish healthy feelings of connection.

Pets provide unconditional love and attention, which is what such a person needs at that time. Gradually, it will result in other human interactions, especially during walks with your dog or cat.

Pets Can Help Instill Responsibility

Caring for pets is no easy task; they need food, shelter, vaccines, and medication. Providing this care to your pet can instill the discipline to see your substance abuse treatment to its completion.

Being responsible for a pet can also boost your self-worth, feelings, and esteem because you’re taking care of another living thing apart from yourself.

woman training dog

A Pawsitive Reassurance for People Struggling With Substance Abuse

Whether it’s a dog, cat, hamster, or guinea pig involved in your substance abuse treatment plan, they’ll help you on your road to recovery. Most importantly, they will improve your mood and get you in a good mental state to handle your substance abuse better.

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