Rethinking dual disorders/pathology

Nestor Szerman, Jose Martinez-Raga, Lola Peris, Carlos Roncero, Ignacio Basurte, Pablo Vega, Pedro Ruiz, Miguel Casas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

35 Citations (Scopus)


Objective: Comorbidity of addictive disorders and other psychiatric disorders is very common. The optimal treatment of patients with addiction disorders requires awareness of their comorbid mental disorders and vice versa. The operational and contextual definitions of the different terms used vary significantly. To address this terminology problem the present document proposes and, therefore, has chosen the term 'dual pathology.' Methods: The present paper aims to discuss the most current evidence regarding the multiple genetic, developmental, and environmental factors underlying the complex interactions that modulate the vulnerability and trajectories of patients with dual pathology. It, thus, goes beyond the current prevailing view of considering patients as having primarily either an addictive disorder or any other mental disorder and may have an additional comorbid psychiatric disorder. Results: It is time to rethink mental disorders, including addictive disorders and dual disorders or dual pathology, recognizing that these are disorders of brain circuits likely caused by developmental processes shaped by a complex interplay of genetics and experience, and may therefore be considered neurodevelopmental disorders. The view of dual pathology as a neurobiological systems failure should help us to develop more comprehensive interventions for optimizing the ways in which we prevent and treat a complex, multifactorial, likely neurodevelopmental disorder such as dual pathology. Conclusions: Despite the scientific evidence, there are beliefs and, as a result, certain resistance or barriers that have hindered the recognition and acceptance of dual pathology in daily clinical practice or in research. Twelve of these common barriers are addressed and discussed. © 2013 by Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-10
JournalAddictive Disorders and their Treatment
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2013


  • addiction
  • dual disorders/pathology
  • neurobiology
  • psychiatric comorbidity
  • substance use disorders


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