Psychopharmacology BPS302

Learn about the Psychology of Drugs

A wide range of substances affect the nervous system by crossing the blood-brain barrier when ingested. Many are relatively harmless or only have minimal effects. Others can bring about significant changes in behaviour and over the longer term can alter the brain's biochemistry. People who become dependent on substances may spend much of their waking life pursuing and imbibing those substances. If they cease taking them, they can develop disturbing physiological and emotional symptoms.

Discover how all sorts of substances affect the mind and behaviour

This course is an ideal introduction to the effects of different groups of substances on the mind and behaviour. From hallucinogens to hypnotics and stimulants to antidepressants, a wide range of drugs are discussed. Many of these are found in everyday consumables, like caffeine in drinks. Some are acquired legally through prescription medications or over the counter drugs, whereas others may be obtained illegally.

Students will learn about what these substances do, both in the short term and long term, and some ways to help people overcome dependency.

  • Learn about drugs and their affect on a person's behaviour
  • Explore the scope and nature of legal and illegal drugs and their psychological effects
  • Understand addiction, dependence, abuse, misuse and withdrawal
  • Develop a foundation for working in the care and treatment of drug addictions



The course is divided into eleven lessons as follows:

  1. Introduction: A history of the use and misuse of drugs in society
  2. Effects of drugs on the individual and society
  3. Legally restricted drugs: Stimulants and narcotics
  4. Legally restricted drugs: Hallucinogens and marijuana
  5. Legally restricted drugs: Steroids
  6. Legal drugs: Alcohol
  7. Legal drugs: Tobacco, caffeine and solvents
  8. Prescription and over-the-counter drugs
  9. Sedatives and anti-anxiety drugs
  10. Prescription drugs for schizophrenia and affective disorders
  11. Treatment and preventative education


  • To understand the origins and changes in drug use in society;
  • To identify patterns of drug-taking behaviour;
  • To identify social, psychological and physical consequences of drug-taking on the individual;
  • To understand the effects of stimulants and narcotics on the individual;
  • To understand the effects of hallucinogens and marijuana on the individual;
  • To understand the effects of anabolic steroids on the individual;
  • To determine health and behavioural outcomes of alcohol use and mis-use;
  • To determine health and behavioural outcomes of nicotine, caffeine and solvent use and misuse;
  • To understand the effects of the major categories of OTC drugs and prescription regulations;
  • To understand the effects of sedatives and anti-anxiety drugs on the brain and behaviour;
  • To understand the effects of different types of anti-psychotic and anti-depressant drugs on the brain and behaviour;
  • To describe different methods of treatment and prevention of drug-abuse and to discuss ways of educating the public as to the outcomes of taking drugs.


  • Explain through case studies the difference between drug abuse and drug misuse;
  • Explain through examples the difference between recreational and instrumental drug-taking;
  • Describe major changes in drug taking behaviour from the nineteenth century to the twentieth century;
  • Investigate why some people are more likely than others to engage in drug abuse behaviour;
  • Contrast the difference of attitudes to drug taking between cultures;
  • Differentiate between drug tolerance and behavioural tolerance;
  • Differentiate between physical and psychological drug dependence;
  • Describe factors contributing to physiological effects of a drug on the body;
  • Learn how psychoactive drugs affect neurotransmitters;
  • Consider how personal expectations influence the effects of drug taking;
  • Learn how cocaine affects the mind and body;
  • List side effects of long and short-term amphetamine use;
  • Explain how to treat cocaine and amphetamine users;
  • Explain how heroin affects the mind and body;
  • Describe how narcotics been used successfully in medicine;
  • Describe how opiates affect the brain;
  • Discuss the effectiveness of the main approaches to treating heroin abuse;
  • Discuss the negative effects regular marijuana use has on quality of life;
  • Discuss the use of steroids in sport and drug control of athletes;
  • Identify health, behavioural, and lifestyle outcomes of alcohol use and misuse;
  • Develop a case study of a person being treated with anti-anxiety drugs;
  • Consider how anti-psychotic drugs work in the brain;
  • Identify the three main types of anti-depressants;
  • Identify drugs used to alleviate panic attacks and bipolar disorder;
  • Consider dilemmas faced when trying to test out new drugs for schizophrenia;
  • Discuss the ‘bio-psychosocial’ approach to treatment of drug abuse;
  • Describe the stage theory of treatment and recovery.

Content of each lesson

1. Introduction: A history of the use and misuse of drugs in society

  • Scope and nature of drugs; legal and illegal
  • Amphetamine
  • Cocaine
  • Crack
  • LSD
  • Ritalin
  • Steroids
  • How heroin is used
  • Medical consequences of chronic heroin abuse
  • Names used for heroin

2. Effects of drugs on the individual and society

  • Community acceptance
  • Terminology
  • Why people use drugs
  • Addiction; how drugs work in the brain
  • Central nervous system
  • Physiological and psychological effects of drugs
  • Alcohol effects
  • Sedative effects
  • Stimulant effects
  • Hallucinogenics
  • Psychological effects of drugs

3. Legally restricted drugs: Stimulants and narcotics

  • Stimulants
  • Symptoms of abuse
  • How cocaine is abused
  • How does cocaine effect the brain
  • What adverse effects does cocaine have on health
  • Added danger; coca ethylene
  • Treatment options
  • Scope of cocaine abuse
  • Narcotics
  • Abuse symptoms
  • Forms and dangers
  • Designer drugs
  • Ecstasy pill

4. Legally restricted drugs: Hallucinogens and marijuana

  • Effects of hallucinogens
  • Symptoms of abuse
  • LSD
  • Hallucinogen persisting perception disorder
  • Marijuana
  • Effects of marijuana on the brain
  • Symptoms of abuse, forms of marijuana and dangers
  • Phencyclidine (PCP)
  • Symptoms of abuse, forms of PCP and dangers

5. Legally restricted drugs: Steroids

  • Steroids
  • Symptoms of abuse, forms of steroids and dangers

6. Legal drugs: Alcohol

  • Symptoms of abuse and dangers with alcohol
  • Alcoholism
  • Staying in control with alcohol
  • Alcohol amnestic syndrome (Korsakoff's syndrome)
  • Treating Korsakoff's syndrome)
  • Alcohol and the developing brain

7. Legal drugs: Tobacco, caffeine and solvents

  • Nicotine addiction
  • Effects of nicotine on the circulatory system
  • Caffeine
  • Caffeine addiction
  • Solvents (volatile solvent abuse): symptoms and dangers

8. Prescription and over-the-counter drugs

  • Prescription drugs (Over the counter or OTC)
  • Groups of prescription drugs
  • Misuse of OTC drugs
  • Opioids
  • Treatments for opioid addiction
  • CNS depressants
  • Stimulants
  • Stimulant abuse and treatment for stimulant addiction

9. Sedatives and anti-anxiety drugs

  • Anti anxiety drugs
  • Barbiturates
  • Benzodiazepines
  • Depressants
  • Rohypnol

10. Prescription drugs for schizophrenia and affective disorders

  • Schizophrenia
  • Onset of schizophrenia
  • Symptoms of schizophrenia
  • Treatment for schizophrenia
  • Anti psychotic drugs
  • Patient support system
  • Depression
  • Depressive disorders
  • Type of depression
  • Unipolar disorder
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Causes of depression
  • Anti depressants
11. Treatment and preventative education
  • Drug addiction
  • Behavioural and psychosocial treatments for drug addiction
  • Treatments for heroin addiction
  • Behavioural therapies for heroin addiction
  • Detoxification

Learn to Understand How Different Chemicals Affect Human Behaviour in Different Ways

Some chemicals impact behaviour in more subtle and mild ways; others are more extreme. Some will affect behaviour without having any discernable long term affect on the brain; but others are very destructive.

All drugs are however not chemicals that nature intended to be present in the human body. They are alien substances. Some people have a greater capacity to deal with and recover from these alien substances. Others are far more severely affected.

Prolonged use of any type of alien substance can impact even a resistant body though.

What is Cannabis?

Marijuana, also a mind-altering drug, is made from the plant cannabis sativa.  It is the most commonly used illegal drug in the USA.  It affects many skills, including safe driving.  The amount of the main mind-altering psychoactive ingredient, THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol), determines how strong its effect will be.

Some points on marijuana (cannabis)

  • Cannabis can worsen mental health problems (including schizophrenia) and may even trigger them in some cases.
  • Smoking cannabis increases your chance of getting lung diseases (like chronic bronchitis) and may also cause lung cancer.
  • Some people can get hooked on cannabis and they experience withdrawal symptoms when they stop.
  • The strength of the strongest type of cannabis called sinsemilla (or 'skunk') has roughly doubled in the last 10 years. The strength of other types of cannabis, such as resin or weed, has stayed more or less the same.

Some immediate physical effects of marijuana include a faster heartbeat and pulse rate, bloodshot eyes, and a dry mouth and throat. No scientific evidence indicates that marijuana improves hearing, eyesight, and skin sensitivity. Studies of marijuana's mental effects show that the drug can impair or reduce short-term memory, alter sense of time, and reduce ability to do things which require concentration, swift reactions, and coordination, such as driving a car or operating machinery.

The short-term effects of marijuana can include problems with memory and learning; distorted perception; difficulty in thinking and problem solving; loss of coordination; and increased heart rate.

When marijuana is smoked, THC, its active ingredient, is absorbed by most tissues and organs in the body; however, it is primarily found in fat tissues. The body, in its attempt to rid itself of the foreign chemical, chemically transforms the THC into metabolites. Urine tests can detect THC metabolites for up to a week after people have smoked marijuana.
Symptoms of Cannabis Abuse:
  • rapid, loud talking
  • bursts of laughter
  • altered perceptions
  • red eyes
  • dry mouth
  • reduced concentration
  • increased heart rate
  • unusual appetite
Forms: dried tops of leaves of marijuana plant ranging in colour from grey-green to green-brown; smoked in hand-rolled cigarettes or special pipes.

Dangers:  addiction, impaired short-term memory, panic reaction, depression.


How This Course Could Help You

This course will be of most value to people with an interest in:

Addictions counselling
Social work
Caring roles
Health professions

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PlanAust. PriceOverseas Price
A 1 x $878.90  1 x $799.00
B 2 x $475.20  2 x $432.00

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