Drugs, Alcohol & Behavior

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This course is under review for 2021. Course registration will open to accepted students once courses are confirmed.

Course Description

Have you ever wondered why drugs are so addictive? Or how drug use has evolved over the history of humankind? In this course students will learn about the intersection of drugs, human life, behavior and addiction. This class will use the socioecological framework to better understand drug use and addiction through individual, interpersonal, organizational, community and environmental contexts. This course will provide students with an introduction to the history of drug use across the globe and an overview of the etiology of common substance use disorders. Students will learn about different drug classes and the impact of drugs on the brain and human behavior, as well as common risk factors and treatment approaches for drug use. Students will be asked to explore different contemporary cultural and societal norms surrounding drug use in terms of regulation, public perception, attitudes and control. Students will also learn about current research and in some cases advocacy efforts to reduce substance abuse within different societies.

Main topics of interest for this course include an introduction to the science of addiction, the history of drug use, drug use and the brain, drug use and behavior, risk factors for drug use and treatments. This course will include an introduction to some regulatory and advocacy efforts to reduce substance abuse. Information will be structured using the theoretical framing of the socioecological framework. Contemporary issues surrounding drug use, regulation, and control will be discussed. At the end of this course, students will have gained an introductory understanding of drug use from three distinct disciplines: biology, psychology and social science. Upon completion of this course, students will have a foundation to study drug use from a medical perspective (psychology, biology, neuroscience) or a social science perspective (public health, sociology, anthropology). Students will be graded on the following items: attendance, in-class assignments, homework and a final paper.

In- Class Assignments
To promote class attendance and ensure completion of readings, there will be periodic unannounced in-class assignments.
Homework: Addiction in the News
Students will be expected to bring a news media article that discusses some aspect of drug abuse. It could be on drug regulation, treatment, overdose deaths, anything at all related to drug use treatment. The article should be from a news source such as Time, The New York Times, CNN, BBC, etc. Each day a random selection of students will be chosen to summarize and discuss their articles or students may be asked to pair and share their respective articles with each other.

Final Paper: Case study Reflection
Students will be assigned a few articles to read at the beginning of the week on controversial drug topics such as the Coca Leaf, Betel Nut, and Marijuana. Students will be expected to write an essay responding to one of these three case studies. Students will be asked to frame their responses accounting for different perspectives such as cultural, societal, regulatory and individual health. Students will be expected to write about the advantages and disadvantages of the selected case study and to provide their personal reflections. The purpose of this exercise is for students to grapple with contemporary issues surrounding drug use within different societies and communities. Students may have the option of working in pairs or individually.

Upon completion of this course students will gain a basic understanding of how drugs affect behavior, and learn about the biological and social determinants of health that influence alcohol and drug abuse behaviors as well as the available treatments and advocacy efforts for individuals suffering from substance use disorders. Students will also be familiarized with contemporary perspectives related to drug use and drug abuse in modern day society and how these perspectives may have changed over time.

Prerequisites: High school level biology recommended. Students must be comfortable reading and writing in English, as this course will have readings with technical language. This course is suitable for any high school student.

Course Information

  • Course Code: CEBI0957
  • Length: 1 week

Program Information

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Brown’s Pre-College Program in the liberal arts and sciences, offering over 200 non-credit courses, one- to four-weeks long, taught on Brown’s campus. For students completing grades 9-12 by June 2021.

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