You’ve heard all the rose-colored glasses stories of how amazing pets can be for your mental health. Experts suggest that pets can combat loneliness, improve a person’s physical activity, and soothe stress. But if you’re suffering from addiction and trying to quit, you might think adopting an animal is just one more thing on your already overloaded plate.
The truth is that a pet might be exactly what you need to help you get out of the cycle of drug or alcohol abuse. And if you decide to get professional treatment, you can even take your pet if you find a luxury rehab for addiction center.
What are the benefits of adopting a pet, particularly a dog or cat? Why should you seriously consider bringing another life — and responsibility — into your home when you’re dealing with addiction? We’ll answer those questions here.
The Benefits of Having a Pet
No matter which kind of animal you choose, your new family member is a living creature that relies on you for its survival. While adopting a pet should always be seen as an important responsibility because of this fact, there are many advantages that come with this extra role in your life.
Most of the studies on pet ownership refer to dogs, but certain benefits come with having any animal, even fish. When you have a bond with your pet, it’s common to have lower blood pressure, lower triglyceride levels, and improved mental health. Psychiatrists often recommend pets for people with anxiety, depression, and PTSD.
Since substance abuse disorders are almost always linked to a mental health condition, boosting your emotional balance with a pet can also reduce your reliance on drugs and alcohol.
But What Does the Research Say?
Research on the effect of pets and people with mental health illness in recovery from substance use confirms these benefits. We’ve seen many studies that show how petting a dog or cat (or even a bird, snake, or lizard, if that’s where your bond is) is almost instantly relaxing.
Dog owners are more likely to be physically inclined because their pets require outside exercise. Cats enjoy playing, often forcing their owners to get off the couch or out of bed to give them attention. People with pets are also more likely to engage in conversation with others when they have a story they can share or see a pet like theirs.
Studies also show that pets have a massive impact on their owner’s mental health directly. When there’s a bond between the animal and human, the pet can sense the emotions of their caregiver and respond understandingly. Having an animal to take care of provides the owner with a sense of empowerment and responsibility that can make a person feel like they have purpose and affection in an otherwise lonely life.
Worth the Work? You Decide
Ultimately, whether you should take on the responsibility of a pet or not is up to you. However, if you’re suffering from addiction and trying to break the cycle, an affectionate animal companion may be exactly what you need to distract you from old habits and build new, healthier ones.
Keep in mind that it can take weeks or months for a pet and its owner to become comfortable with each other and form a bond, so be patient. Soon, you’ll wonder what you ever did without your furry/scaly/feathery little friend!