City College of San Francisco
Course Outline of Record
Course Status: Active
A. Approval Date October 2019
B. Effective Semester Fall 2020
C. Department Behavioral Sciences
D. Course Number PSYC 50
E. Course Title Psychology of Psychoactive Drugs
F. Course Outline Originator Jennifer Dawgert-Carlin
F. Co-Contributor(s):
Karin Hu
G. Department Chairperson Jennifer Dawgert-Carlin
H. Dean Jill Yee
A. Hours
Lecture: 52.5
Homework: 105
Total Hours: 157.5
B. Units 3
C. Prerequisite None
    Corequisite None
    Pre/Corequisite None
    Advisory ENGL 88 or ESL 188 or readiness for college-level English
    Advisory Pre/Corequisite None
D. Course Justification There is a wide interest in psychoactive drugs, as reflected in media coverage, government policy, and individual use. This course addresses this interest, and the need for the general population and behavioral sciences majors to understand the science of psychoactive drugs. Offering the Psychology of Psychoactive Drugs enhances and expands the psychology program's offerings of biopsychological, social psychological, and clinical/mental health-related courses. The course will be required as part of the forthcoming Cannabis Studies Program. The course is CSU/UC transferable and is designed to meet CCSF GE requirements in Social and Behavioral Sciences (Area D) and elective requirements for the CCSF AA-T Psychology major.
E. Field Trips No
F. Method of Grading Letter or Pass/No Pass
G. Repeatability Course is not repeatable
Exploration of the science, the hype, and the hope of psychoactive drugs. Emphasis on drugs that treat mental illness, as well as cannabis, sedatives, stimulants, hallucinogens and other drugs which can enhance or diminish well-being. In addition, it will help students evaluate the scientific validity of claims about potential risks and benefits of drugs.
Upon completion of this course, a student will be able to:
  1. Apply basic terms and concepts in psychopharmacology.
  2. Evaluate research findings related to psychoactive drugs for research design, implications and limitations of findings.
  3. Compare the psychological effects of various drug categories.
  4. Debate contrasting perspectives on benefits and risks of drug use and societal drug policies.
  1. Research
    1. Design and interpretation of scientific research methods
    2. Case study
    3. Observation
    4. Survey
    5. Correlation
    6. Experimental
  2. Evaluation of scientific validity of conclusions
    1. Academic sources
    2. Popular media sources
  3. Levels of analysis
    1. Genetic
    2. Synaptic
    3. Neural circuit
    4. Brain region
    5. The individual
    6. The social and physical environment
  4. Introduction to the nervous system and endocrine system
    1. Historical perspectives on the relationship of the mind and brain
    2. Current perspectives in the relationship of the mind and brain
    3. Organization of the nervous system
    4. Organization of the endocrine system
  5. Pharmacokinetics
    1. Administration routes
      1. Ingestion
      2. Inhalation
      3. Injection
      4. Other routes
    2. Drug duration, dose-response relationships, drug toxicity
    3. Drug tolerance and dependence
    4. Drug effectiveness
    5. Psychology of placebo effects
    6. Clinical psychology diagnosis of Substance Use Disorders
  6. Chemistry of behavior
    1. Synaptic transmission
    2. Neurotransmitters and neuropeptides
    3. Hormones
  7. Drug classification
    1. Behavioral nomenclature
    2. Federal DEA Schedule nomenclature
    3. Neuroscience nomenclature
  8. Antipsychotics
    1. Historical and current perspective
    2. Psychology of antipsychotics
    3. Benefits and risks
  9. Sedative hypnotics and anxiolytics
    1. Including barbiturates, benzodiazepines, alcohol, and others
    2. Historical and current perspective
    3. Psychology of sedative hypnotics and anxiolytics
    4. Benefits and risks
  10. Antidepressants
    1. Including MAOIs, tricyclics, SSRIs and others
    2. Historical and current perspective
    3. Psychology of antidepressants
    4. Benefits and risks
  11. Narcotic analgesics
    1. Including opium, morphine, heroin, Oxycontin, fentanyl, and others
    2. Historical and current perspective
    3. Psychology of narcotic analgesics
    4. Benefits and risks
  12. Psychomotor stimulants
    1. Including methamphetamine, MDMA, Ritalin/Adderall, nicotine, caffeine, and others
    2. Historical and current perspective
    3. Psychology of psychomotor stimulants
    4. Benefits and risks
  13. Psychedelics and hallucinogens
    1. Including cannabis, psilocybin, ayahuasca, ketamine, and others
    2. Historical and current perspective
    3. Psychology of psychedelics and hallucinogens
    4. Benefits and risks
  1. Assignments
    1. In-class activity: Participation in instructor-led discussions and solving tasks requiring students to integrate and analyze lesson contents. For example, groups or individuals review the psychological characteristics of Substance Use Disorder and determine a diagnosis and possible treatments.
    2. In-class activity: Illustrating concepts or processes by students creating graphic or 3-D clay models requiring the translation of complex processes into simplified, step-by-step models. For example, creating models of the sequence of synaptic activity, or a graphic illustration of drug effects on synaptic activity.
    3. In-class activity: Viewing and class discussion of film/media presentations on neural activity, psychoactive drugs, or addiction. Discussion might compare perspectives on the pros and cons of the use of psychoactive drugs in psychotherapy.
    4. Out-of-class assignment: Reading and analyzing textbook assignments.
    5. Out-of-class assignment: Completing study guide or quiz review exercises.
    6. Out-of-class assignment: Brief written assignments involving problem-solving or analysis and evaluation of scientific articles, such as reviewing an article on the effect of cannabis on cognitive function and formulating a conclusion about the risks and benefits of cannabis use.
    7. Out-of-class assignment: A minimum of one 5-10 page term paper requiring the application of course material and the review and evaluation of scientific articles. Topics might include an evaluation of research findings related to psychoactive drugs, or the implications and limitations of research findings.
  2. Evaluation
    1. Exams/Quizzes/Tests: Three or more quizzes on topics such as the basic terminology in the discipline, concepts in psychopharmacology, or the role of specific neurotransmitters.
    2. Written work: A minimum of one 5-10 page term paper requiring the application of course material and showing the ability to review and evaluate and compare scientific articles.
    3. Written work: Written analysis of selected problems, articles, books, or films that address issues such as current debates contrasting perspectives on benefits and risks of drug use and societal drug policies.
    4. Final Assessment: A written comprehensive final exam in any testing format.
  3. Representative Textbooks and Other Instructional Materials
    1. Richard Miller. 2016. Drugged: The Science and Culture Behind Psychotropic Drugs. Oxford University Press.
    2. Gary L. Wenk. 2015. Your Brain on Food: How Chemicals Control Your Thoughts and Feelings, 2nd edition. Oxford University Press.
    3. Adokcat, Comaty & Julien. 2019. Julien's Primer of Drug Action: A Comprehensive Guide to Actions, Uses and Side Effects of Psychoactive Drugs, 14th edition. Worth.
    4. Library resources such as PsycArticles, EBSCOhost, and Scientific American Magazine. Journal articles from "Journal of Psychoactive Drugs" Dana Foundation Cerebrum and the American Psychological Association.
    5. Website: Science Daily Mind and Brain
CREDIT/DEGREE APPLICABLE (meets all standards of Title 5. Section 55002(a))