Dr. Cali Estes - The Addiction Coach ®

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The Addictions Coach: Can Dogs Help Prevent Addiction Relapse?



Many people who enter residential treatment for drugs and alcohol are suffering from chronic relapses. The risk of a relapse can bring on feelings of defeat and worthlessness. This is obviously counter-productive when long-term recovery is the addict’s primary goal. Finding other resources to help outside of treatment is one way to keep focused during recovery.

Service dogs are now joining the fight, by providing companionship. Psychiatric service dogs are service dogs trained to aid a person with a mental disability or disorder. They are usually trained specifically to meet the individual’s needs based on their illness and severity of their disability or disorder. For many people who have addictions, relapse is a very real risk, and it often exacerbates the symptoms of their addiction. New research is showing that service dogs can benefit addicts who have a mental illness or disorder because they aid in addiction recovery as well.

Another way service dogs help fight addiction is by acting as a coping mechanism and keeping perspective when stressors occur. Addiction in people with mental illness is usually caused by an attempt to self medicate. With the stigma against mental illness, many people avoid treatment and instead abuse drugs as a coping mechanism. As they recover, they must learn to cope with their mental illness in more positive ways.

For some, that could be exercising, meditating, crafting or many other healthy ways. Now if the addict has a service dog he may be able to use pet care as a form of coping. Grooming, playing with, bathing and feeding can be a great way to keep someone’s mind off relapsing. When you go everywhere with a dog, the people around you suddenly want to stop, talk and ask questions about your service dog. This helps to prevent isolation in people with mental health concerns, which helps them battle one of the reasons to self medicate.

Dogs also require exercise, which forces the owner to get out of bed and exercise as well. Taking care of your service dog can keep depression away, which helps to alleviate another common reason for self medication. Drug rehab programs are already using service dogs to help overcome addiction. In group therapy, dogs were found to foster sharing, allowing the participants to reveal helpful information. The dogs helped participants to acknowledge problems in their lives that may have led to their current state and to become more self-aware.

Choosing to own a psychiatric service dog can be a life-altering decision for those struggling with addiction. Even without the added challenges associated with addiction recovery, service dogs can help make every day life easier. They might make going out in public bearable again, soothe emotional outbursts, bring someone with PTSD back from a flashback or help an addict stay sober. We here at www.theaddictionscoach.com can help place you with a service dog to help you with your recovery. Call us at 1-800-706-0318 for help.

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