How Volunteer Work With Animals Can Help You Recover From Addiction

If you are not a pet person, you may not understand the direct correlation between animals and healing. For years, our furry friends have been a vital encouragement as they visit children’s hospitals and nursing homes to raise the spirits of the very sick, disabled, and lonely. For individuals dealing with drug or alcohol addiction — including meth addiction recovery — their treatment may include working with animals.

Backed By Science

In 2014, a study done by Kamioka and Okada found that pets such as dogs, cats, horses, rabbits, birds, dolphins, and guinea pigs are an effective means of helping with co-occurring drug and alcohol addiction and mental illnesses. A pet can fill the gap of loneliness if friends and family are absent in recovery. It is also important for an addict to distance themselves from friends who are part of an old life that led to the addiction. An animal is capable of providing companionship for people who are hurting and lonely.

Positive Benefits Of Pets

Many animals love unconditionally, which means you don’t have to explain your mistakes, justify your actions, or apologize. Being with furry friends lowers blood pressure and provides a peaceful, calm feeling. When you are in recovery, a pet can be someone to cuddle with, walk with, and talk to on those difficult days. Spending time with animals is a guaranteed way to stop your own thoughts and concerns as animals demand your attention.

Taking a dog with you to the park or on a walk will ensure you have a friend with you. It can also be a conversation starter with others. Whether it is because your pet is adorable or because the other person’s dog is attracted to yours, you can bet a little socializing will occur. In recovery, it is often easy to isolate, which isn’t a good idea. Human contact is good for the soul, and there is nothing better than a laugh with a new friend.

Owning a pet is also an excellent way to stay on a routine and to become responsible for someone besides yourself. Pets will let you know when they are hungry, need attention, or want to go outside, so you remain on a schedule. It also means you will have a reason to go home early because you can’t leave your dog too long. Without attention, these loving creatures will let you know things aren’t right.


For a healthy person, one of the most rewarding jobs is volunteering. For people who struggle with drugs or alcohol, volunteering can be a lifeline. There is a myriad of opportunities to volunteer, but they all have one thing in common: They help you get out of your head. Seeing another person or an animal who is hurting produces empathy, which leads to better interpersonal relationships. Improved communication means an individual can get better at work, family, and friend connections.

Choosing to volunteer at an animal shelter comes with its own set of positive results. Working in a shelter will allow you to see if having a pet is a good idea for you. The daily care of abandoned and possibly injured pets can create a feeling of purpose in the volunteer. It will also help with developing healthy bonds and promote accountability. Additionally, if you have a substance use disorder, getting or keeping a job may have been a problem in the past. Volunteering can be a way to get back into the workplace.

Animal-Assisted Therapy

Animal-assisted therapy or AAT has become a popular addiction treatment in the last few years. Therapy animals can improve self-esteem, mood, and confidence while at the same time, reduce anger, depression, and anxiety. Many professionals use AAT to assist with mental conditions and addiction. Success rates are higher as patients feel a commitment to the animal who has shown them unconditional love. Even casual interaction animal-assisted therapy is effective in reducing stress and aggression in patients.

Individuals who have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) are exceptionally responsive to AAT. Dogs are great at measuring episodes in PTSD patients and bring comfort and stability under a flashback.

Regardless of the situation, pets are proven to be healers of the sick, whether physical, emotional, or mental. There is nothing a wagging tail or a nuzzling nose on your hand can’t cure. Whether for meth treatment, alcoholism, or other addiction, an animal can play a massive part in the healing process.

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