Dual pathology

What is dual pathology?

The term dual pathology is used in the field of mental health, to assess those patients who suffer simultaneously or throughout their lives from an addiction and another mental disorder. Addictions can be elements or substances morally approved in today’s culture such as: tobacco, coffee, alcohol, painkillers or those that do not enjoy the same status such as: cannabis, cocaine, amphetamines and opioids. Pathological gambling can also be considered as a behavioral addiction. On the other hand, mental disorders refer to anxiety disorders, mood disorders, schizophrenia and psychosis spectrum disorders, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, and different personality traits and disorders.

Prognosis of the disease

The prognosis of dual pathology can vary depending on the addiction and mental disorder that each patient may suffer from.

Symptoms of dual pathology

The most frequent symptoms of dual pathology are:

  • High level of impulsivity.
  • Aggression and violence.
  • Not respecting guidelines, rules or instructions.
  • Routine disorder in coexistence, paranoid ideas with a personal way of decoding reality.
  • Marginality and vagrancy.

In addition to these symptoms, there are also those caused by the substance itself.

Some symptoms of dual pathology can be aggression, violence and marginality.

Medical tests for dual pathology

In order to make a correct diagnosis to identify dual pathology, there are criteria in one of the first psychiatric diagnostic manuals (DSM) that differentiate between primary disorders (not associated with substance use or due to a disease with a recognized medical cause), expected effects (the result of substance use or a period of abstinence from a substance) or substance-induced disorders (classified as excessive before the onset of intoxication by the substance or withdrawal from it).

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What are the causes of dual pathology?

There are different causes that can lead to dual pathology, among them:

  • Mental disorder: suffering from some type of mental disorder is a risk factor that can lead to the development of an addiction.
  • Substance abuse: one of the consequences of substance abuse can lead to dual pathology.
  • Common causal elements: common vulnerability factors surrounding the person is another possible cause of dual pathology, these can facilitate the emergence of a mental disorder or addiction.
  • Independent disorders: there are cases in which no cause-effect can be found between the addiction and the mental disorder.

Can it be prevented?

Prevention is based on avoiding any risk factor that may lead to addiction. For example, avoiding cocaine consumption will help to prevent it from combining and causing dual pathology if the patient suffers from a mental disorder. Following the treatment ordered by the specialist is another preventive measure, as well as correctly following the therapeutic and rehabilitative activities. Choosing the right work and living environment is another measure that can help prevent dual pathology.

Treatments for dual pathology

It is advisable to have a combined treatment, the drug addiction treatment itself and the psychiatric and psychological mental health treatment. According to the Spanish Society of Dual Pathology (SEPD), six out of ten drug addicts present another mental pathology. Moreover, 60% of those affected by a behavioral addiction present other mental disorders, the most frequent being: depression, anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) or attention deficit disorder.

Which specialist treats it?

The specialist who treats dual pathology is the Psychiatrist. At Top Doctors we offer the best specialist in each case, and the one that best suits your needs and conditions.