SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO, Calif. (Ivanhoe Newswire) — Group therapy, 12-step programs, one-on-one counseling, cognitive behavioral therapy … the list goes on and on when it comes to treating addiction. But could animals be the answer? There’s no doubt, dogs and humans connect. But can people and wolves also experience a healing bond? And could they help people beat their addictions?
Wolves … we think of them as ferocious predators, but could they also be gentle healers?
“I felt very calm and relaxed and stress free. And my mind was clear when I was around Miquan.” Recovering Alcoholic, Morgan Aitken says.
Aitkan is 112 days sober today. Wolf therapy helped to transform her life.
“She came here and said, ‘I don’t wanna live like this anymore. I’m suffering, I’m dying. I’m drinking every day. It’s killing me.’ and then she went to the wolves and the wolves don’t see any of that.” Explains Clinical Director of New Method Wellness, DeAnna Crosby, MA, LMFT, LAADC.
New Method Wellness therapist Crosby says wolves instinctively know which patient needs their help the most.
“They’ve gone through trauma. They’ve lived in the wild. They see, they walk up to you and they just see you and you don’t have to pretend anything anymore.” Stated Crosby.
One common bond? The power of the pack.
Crosby explains, “Addiction is about a lack of connection. That’s why addicts connect to each other. And, that’s why they run in a pack. The best thing you can do to treat an addict is help them with connection.”
Ryan Lamb, Owner of Living Life in Recovery says, “Having the courage to be vulnerable and to open ourselves up to this new experience so that we can authentically connect.”
The wolves help to teach addicts about boundaries and respect. Benefits include reduced depression and anxiety, increased self-control, improved interpersonal skills and elevated self-esteem. They helped Morgan find the strength to stop drinking.
“The wolf walks up and licks her face and everything changes. And it’s like one connection she has that loves her unconditionally.” Says Crosby.
Morgan’s now back to work and is planning to face another fear and go back to college.
“Having her around has helped us be more relaxed and know that we’re gonna be okay and that we’re gonna get through all this.” Says Morgan.
The wolves are trained and certified as therapy dogs. They live in a wolf sanctuary that rescues hurt wolves and discarded wolf-dogs who were abandoned by their owners.
Contributors to this news report include: Marsha Lewis, Producer; Roque Correa, Editor.
FROM PREDATOR TO PROTECTOR: HEALING POWER OF WOLVES
BACKGROUND: Addiction kills thousands of Americans every year and is considered a chronic mental health condition. Addictions affect the brain’s normal functions and cause a person to repeatedly use substances or engage in behaviors even though they have harmful consequences. Nearly 21 million Americans have at least one addiction, yet only ten percent of them receive treatment. Those between the ages of 18 and 25 are most likely to use addictive drugs. However, alcohol is the most widely abused substance in the U.S. An addiction to alcohol can be detrimental to a person’s physical, mental, and social wellbeing. On average, 30 Americans die every day in an alcohol-related car accident, and six Americans die every day from alcohol poisoning. Men between the ages of 18 and 25 are most likely to binge drink and become alcoholics.
ANIMAL THERAPY AND ADDICTION: Animal-assisted therapy (AAT) for substance abuse disorders refers to therapeutic or recreational activities that use the healing power of spending time with animals. This type of therapy is typically used in combination with other substance abuse programs. AAT requires a certified professional with specialized training to ensure both the patient’s and the animal’s safety, which makes it a more effective form of therapy. AAT provides a safe and natural way to reestablish the natural neurochemical pathways in the brain. Some benefits may include reducing stress, anxiety, and depression; releasing feelings of calm and happiness; providing companionship; helping to open up and address hidden feelings; encouraging physical activity; and building trust. Some of the more popular animals used in AAT are dogs, horses, cats, guinea pigs, rabbits, pigs, birds, rats, llamas, and alpacas.
BREAKTHROUGH TREATMENT FOR ALCOHOL ADDICTION: A study, led by the Monash Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences (MIPS) and the Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health, identified a potential therapeutic target to treat alcohol use disorder (AUD) by targeting a specific receptor in the brain. Researchers performed genome-wide RNA sequencing and protein expression studies in human tissue samples from people with AUD and non-drinkers to uncover potential therapeutic targets. They confirmed that the regulation of muscarinic M4 receptors occurred in the same brain region in an animal model of alcohol intake, which gave them confidence to investigate a small molecule that activates M4 receptors, ultimately showing it can reduce alcohol consumption and prevent relapse of alcohol addiction. “Alcohol misuse is a huge burden not just for individuals, but for families, communities, and the economy. By identifying a potential therapeutic target, we’re one step closer to developing a new pharmacotherapeutic option for alcohol use disorder,” said lead researcher Chris Langmead, MD, from MIPS.
* For More Information, Contact:
Susie Hopson Blum
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