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An exploratory case study of the impact of psychiatric service dogs on problematic substance use among PTSD-diagnosed veterans

By A. Husband, A. Ahmed, C. A. Dell

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Abstract

Background: Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and co-occurring problematic substance use is a health concern among Canadian military veterans. There are complex pathways to their problematic use of substances, including high-risk use of licit and illicit substances both pre and post PTSD diagnosis as well as access to prescribed PTSD medication with a potential for misuse.

Methods: This exploratory case study examines whether and how the introduction of a psychiatric service dog (PSD) for veterans diagnosed with PTSD assists with addressing their problematic use of substances, both illicit and licit, including prescribed medications. Veterans’ prescription histories were reviewed one year prior to and one year after their match with a PSD. Interviews were held with the veterans at the second point in time to review their substance use.

Results: A PSD assisted with decreasing the veterans’ PTSD symptoms and provided a steady source of additional personalized support. The veterans decreased their problematic use of prescribed and other licit and illicit substances. The veterans also stabilized or decreased their use of prescription medication.

Conclusion: Psychiatric service dogs are a potential complementary health practice for PTSD diagnosed veterans who problematically use substances. This finding supports a call for further research.

Date 2019
Publication Title Journal of Substance Use
Volume 25
Issue 2
Pages 113-117
ISBN/ISSN 1465-9891
Publisher Taylor & Francis
DOI 10.1080/14659891.2019.1664663
Language English
Additional Language English
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Tags
  1. Animal roles
  2. Dogs
  3. Mental health and well-being
  4. Post-traumatic Stress Disorder
  5. Psychiatric Services
  6. Service animals