Drug addiction is a major care and safety challenge in prison context. Nowadays, rehabilitation and specific therapeutic programs are suggested to improve health and well-being of inmates during their detention time and to reduce substance abuse relapse after release from prison. Among these programs, several studies reported the benefits for inmates coming from animal assisted interventions. In this pilot controlled study, we investigated the efficacy of a dog assisted therapy program addressed to 22 drug addicted male inmates housed in an attenuated custody institute in Italy. The study lasted six months, the treated group (12 inmates) was involved once a week for one hour in 20 dog assisted therapy sessions, whereas the control group (10 inmates) followed the standard rehabilitation program. One week before the beginning and one week after the end of the sessions, all inmates involved were submitted to symptom checklist-90-revised and Kennedy axis V. Inmates involved in the dog assisted therapy sessions significantly improved their social skills, reducing craving, anxiety and depression symptoms compared to the control group. Despite the limitation due to the small number of inmates enrolled and to the absence of follow up, we found these results encouraging to the use of dog assisted therapy as co-therapy in drug addicted inmates rehabilitation programs, and we claim the need of more extensive study on this subject.
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