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300-Level Interdisciplinary Course  
UI-300      Drugs and Behavior
Catalog Description

An interdisciplinary coverage of psychoactive drugs from the perspectives of psychopharmacology, history, and criminal justice.

Course Content

This course examines the major classes of psychoactive drugs and their use in cultures past and present. Specific drugs studied include cocaine, amphetamine, nicotine, caffeine, alcohol, heroin, barbiturates, valium, marijuana and hashish. Special topics such as designer drugs, undercover investigations, drug use during the war in Vietnam, and DEA operations in South America are also covered. The history of psychoactive substance use/abuse across cultures and the response of governments and legislatures in attempting to control and regulate public access are major themes of the course.


An understanding of drug use and addictive behaviors also requires an awareness of physiological mechanisms underlying the effects of these substances on the human brain and body. The basic principles of psychopharmacology are covered, following each drug through administration, absorption, distribution and final elimination from the body. These topics in psychopharmacology and the physiological basis of addictive behaviors are considered fundamental in helping the student reach a responsible, informed and critical view of psychoactive substances in their current historical and cultural context.

Nature of Course

The course involves considerable lecture material and assigned readings, but there is also emphasis on discussion and student interaction in class. Selected guest speakers with extensive knowledge of drug addiction, law enforcement or drug treatment provide opportunities for students to query experts directly. Round table discussions with the instructors provide a format for students to share thoughts on the course and their concerns/interests.

Student Expectations
  1. Attend class regularly and participate in class discussions.
  2. Give a brief oral presentation as part of a class debate.
  3. Complete a term paper and one small paper.
  4. Complete 4 exams.




Credit Hours 3