How Dogs Can Help Owners Overcome Drug Addiction

Man's best friends have long followed their owners through hard times and stormy weather — and now, even into rehab.

Germany's Schloss Tessin center is the first of its kind in the country and integrates pooches as part of the therapeutical process, Die Welt reports.

The center has even been adapted to accommodate its four-legged guests. In the patients' rooms, for example, the beds are too high for the dogs to jump onto so special sleeping areas were constructed underneath for them. At the moment there are 47 patients and 25 dogs at the center.

Psychiatrist and head doctor at Schloss Tessin Alf Kroker sees big advantages in using the bonds patients have to their dogs in therapy. "Many addicts have broken off all social contact," he told Die Welt. "The central focus of their life became consuming drugs — everything revolved around getting hold of heroin, cocaine, hash, crystal meth or other substances. So, relationships with family and friends went by the wayside and the connection to their dog is often the only relationship that survives."

He adds that many addicts would refuse treatment if it meant being away from their beloved pet. "The animal is trusted unconditionally, it’s like their child, but is also a competent protector," says Kroker.

Other experts have reacted positively to the center's new canine policy. "Animals can give structure to the day and the patient is cast in a positive role as carer," says Ingrid Stephan, who heads the Institute for Social Learning with Animals in Lindwedel near Hannover.

Photo: emma.kate

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