Heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine, marijuana, antidepressants, tranquilizers, LSD, antipsychotics: all of these are psychoactive drugs. Yet some are illegal, some legal, some toxic, some medicinal. What do they really do, and how do we decide which are safe and which are dangerous?
In this course you will learn about the biological actions of the important psychoactive drugs currently in use around the world. We will explore both illegal drugs, from “magic” mushrooms to marijuana to methamphetamine, and prescription medicines like lithium, Lexapro®, and Adderall®. We will explore the relationship between drug use and mental illness, and consider the proposition that drug addiction is a medical illness. Discussions, brief lectures, readings, analysis of web-based and scientific papers, and our own writings will help us understand the scientific bases upon which psychoactive drugs are evaluated.
With our primary emphasis on the biological actions of these drugs on the brain and body, we will learn some methods for evaluating scientific knowledge, about animal models of disease and drug use, and the criteria for performing and interpreting drug studies on human subjects.
Inside and outside class, teaching and learning will involve the “problem-posing” method mixed with short periods of lecture. This active learning technique uses group discussion of questions to facilitate learning about important issues for each drug. We will use the active group learning format to help us understand how drugs act: how they get into the body and into the brain, what the actions of the drug are inside and outside the brain, and why a drug can cause tolerance, withdrawal symptoms, or addiction. We will use a wide array of active learning techniques: debates, “chalk-talk” presentations, and creation of posters for the IFS-wide forum; skits, group presentations to a small panel of other students, book reviews, “jigsaw” group projects to approach a complex topic, games (e.g., a course-based Jeopardy competition), and even setting scientific principles to musical lyrics. To enhance our discussion, we will be visited by a person with schizophrenia who maintains symptom control with an antipsychotic drug. You will leave this course with an increased awareness of psychoactive drugs in all their aspects, and with a sharpened ability to filter, analyze, and understand the information and misinformation that surrounds these agents.
GenEd Information: See the GenEd Website for information about courses approved for the IU Bloomington General Education requirements.
Catalog Information: MSCI-M 100 CURR TOPICS IN BIOMEDICAL SCI