The Benefits of Emotional Support Animals When Going Through Addiction and Mental Health Recovery

November 18, 2022

[Author]Alexandra Dadivas (she/her/hers), Low Entropy Volunteer Writer


It’s common knowledge that animals are one of the best ways to make yourself feel better. If you’re feeling down in the dumps, you go find your pet and give them a little hug. If you don’t have a pet, even just scrolling through cute animal videos is enough to make you smile. We all know this! We also know that feeling sad every once in a while is completely different than having a diagnosed mental illness. But what we don’t normally delve into is the fact that there is a trend between the coping mechanisms for both of these experiences – pets! There is a reason that support animals are offered to those going through addiction or mental health recovery, and in this research-based blog, I’ll be explaining all of the benefits of our furry friends, trained or not.

The pandemic has gripped the world in fear and isolation, and nearly everybody has felt the effects of this. In fact, over the past two years, there has been an increase of 25% in people who have been diagnosed with major depressive disorder, and a 25% increase in those with anxiety disorders. Additionally, in a survey of those who drink alcohol, a third of them reported drinking more since the start of the pandemic. The overall mental health of the world has deteriorated due to COVID-19, so how did we take action against this?

In 2019, there was an estimated total of 200,000 emotional support dogs in the U.S. Now, in 2022, there is approximately 500,000. The drastic increase shows not only that the need for support animals has risen, but it has also shown that these pets are effective. In multiple separate surveys, addicts and people with mental health issues have reported that having an emotional support animal has decreased anger and loneliness, increased calmness and optimism, and that their pet has given them a sense of being loved and wanted. The mutually beneficial relationship between people and therapy animals is known to positively influence the recovering addict’s overall health and wellbeing by allowing them to develop healthy bonds and become accountable for someone other than themselves.

Don’t believe surveys and statistics? Believe the science.

For people who are dealing with addiction, the neurotransmitters and receptors in their brains are accustomed to being artificially stimulated with drugs and alcohol. What this means is that these unhealthy substances are tricking the brain into thinking that it finds pleasure in using them, thus the person seeks out these substances to stimulate the brain again. To counteract this, what therapy animals do is offer a safe and natural way to stimulate pleasure receptors in the brain – giving the addicts a similar satisfaction without negatively affecting other aspects of their body and mind. The release of the brain’s “happiness chemicals” like dopamine and serotonin, also decrease depressive behaviours, thus also helping patients who are diagnosed with major depressive disorder and anxiety disorders.

The road to recovery from mental illness and addiction is not one to be taken lightly, but the journey does not have to be walked alone. Having a four-legged pal to guide and support you is statistically and scientifically one of the healthiest and most effective ways to get yourself to where you want to be in life, especially after going through your low points. I am grateful to say that I have never been in a life situation where a trained support animal is needed, however I can say that my pet cat has definitely helped me through some tough times! The good thing with animals is that they don’t discern the complex emotions that you feel, only that you need them. When you feel like the mere idea of happiness is impossible, they never disappoint to put a smile on your face.



Hi! My name is Alexandra Dadivas and I’m going into Grade 11 with the goal of being in healthcare sciences. Avid reader of young adult fiction!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


At Low Entropy, we believe changing the world starts with changing ourselves.

Founded in 2015, Low Entropy Facilitates conversations that encourage diversity and promote inclusivity.

We understand that life can be confusing at times. It can seem challenging and sometimes you may feel like no one really “gets you.” We offer an opportunity to connect with others who have the capacity to understand you.