Tell me what to tell (college) kids about drugs.
May 12, 2011 10:47 AM   Subscribe

What should college kids know about psychoactive drugs?

I'm teaching a psychoactive drugs class in the fall (through the psych department), and am looking for resources, recommendations, suggestions, etc.

I've TA'd for this class before, but it was conducted as if it was 'DARE for undergraduates.' I have no intentions of conducting a similar course.

I have a fair deal of flexibility in constructing the syllabus, but, generally speaking, the plan is to keep the class more focused on the biological end of things and less so on the sociological one.

If you had a good drugs class, or just read a good drugs book that you think might work as a textbook, please let me know!
posted by solipsophistocracy to Education (25 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
You'll want to visit erowid. This, for instance, is their information about mushrooms.
posted by rtha at 10:52 AM on May 12, 2011 [2 favorites]

You could do a unit on "newcomers" and how law responds. At teh top of my head, salvia and bath salts are 2 that you could google to see their recent appearances in the news.
posted by WeekendJen at 10:56 AM on May 12, 2011

Response by poster: I'm familiar with erowid, thanks. It's not really the sort of resource I'm looking for. Certainly, it's one I would recommend that students check out (provided that they keep their skepticism caps on), but I'm looking for a more cohesive, unified text (or web resources that aren't somewhat 'delegitimized' by the scads of absolute garbage on erowid [not that said garbage isn't often juxtaposed with great info]).
posted by solipsophistocracy at 10:58 AM on May 12, 2011

If you want to go deep into the biological end of things, Alexander Shulgin is the grandaddy. He's written some canonical texts on psychoactive drugs in the past, but now seems to be writing on a more formal level. I'd also check out the Encyclopedia of Psychoactive Plants.
posted by mykescipark at 10:59 AM on May 12, 2011 [4 favorites]

The best resourses are:
wikipedia for a basic understanding prior to further resourses.
Maps- studies of psychoactive drugs
Shroomery- Mushrooms and more
Growery- sister site to above on marijuana
Erowid- probably one of the best sites.
posted by handbanana at 10:59 AM on May 12, 2011

Just to add, Erowid cites a hell of a lot of further studies and info to look at. Yea, while the reports and what not are some what junkie, erowid is a non profit with the goal of education on chemical substances. Dive a bit deeper and check out more of it.
If you want some good ol' fashion propaganda, check out
posted by handbanana at 11:03 AM on May 12, 2011

Response by poster: Sorry to thread sit, but I'm not sure I set this puppy up right.

Please assume that I know a lot about drugs. A whole lot. I'm not a neuropsychopharmacologist, but I almost was. I'm not looking for 'cool websites about drugs' or any Sasha-borne compendium listing lots of funky tryptamines/phenathylamines, their synthesis, and subjectively stated subjective effects.

I'm looking for solid, advanced undergraduate texts. Web resources are great too, but I need sciencey (e.g., peer reviewed or peer reviewed-ish) ones, not 'check out my favorite drug site' ones.
posted by solipsophistocracy at 11:04 AM on May 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'm not a neuropsychopharmacologist, but I almost was.

You might browse PubMed for review papers. Frequently-cited authors tend to write textbooks.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:08 AM on May 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

Sorry to threadsit as well. And I hope this doesn't come off as crass, but have you looked into your library's internet catalog searching medical journals? If you want advanced info, look no further then you jstor or what have you. A lot of info is published outside the US ever since the war on drugs began. This is how I've accessed studies on cannabis researched in Israel.
posted by handbanana at 11:10 AM on May 12, 2011

Best answer: I'm a big fan of Stahl's Essential Psychopharmacology. I think it might be what you're looking for. They do a great job diagramming receptor interactions. It might be too advanced for undergraduates but it might be good to teach from.
Good luck with your class. My undergraduate Psychoactive Drugs class was a big part of my decision to go to med school.
posted by arrmatie at 11:11 AM on May 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

Well, there are major political reasons why what you are looking for may not exist, but aside from that, here are a couple of resources and some questions.

Pursuit of Ecstasy: The MDMA Experience
Illegal Leisure Revisited

If you're looking for peer-reviewed articles, you probably have better access to journals than I do, since you're in an academic institution. Many of the better articles are usually linked on erowid, so I'm not sure why you're so dismissive of it as a resource, but I'm also not sure I'm clear on what you're looking for.

Here's MAPS list of papers, for example, but it's also a "cool website about drugs."

Clarification: Are you looking for the pharmacological details (but not synthesis nor effects) of different drugs?

What about the sociological/political/policy aspects? That's always what I want undergrads to know more about, but it doesn't sound like that's what you're asking.
posted by gingerbeer at 11:24 AM on May 12, 2011 [4 favorites]

I can't find the syllabus online, but UC Santa Cruz has a course called Understanding Drugs that you might want to look into. It's focus is broader than just psychoactives and it covers some social/legal issues such as FDA approvals, OTC/Prescription/Supplement distinctions, scheduling etc., but there was also some good, entry-level coverage of neuroreceptors and neurotransmitters and how they are affected by various classes of psychoactive drugs. I don't remember which text we used for that section or if it was in the professor's very extensive photocopied reader, but you could contact Glenn Eberhart directly to see if he has any recommendations.

You don't mention how technical the audience is expected to be. Is this a class for Psych majors only? Are there prereqs?
posted by contraption at 11:26 AM on May 12, 2011

Wait, you're in Eugene? I went to U of O for undergrad. Whoever taught the class around 2002 did a really good job. Sorry it became DARE since then. Remember you're going to have to teach basic pharmacokinetics and review neurotransmitters and that's going to take up a lot of your class time.
posted by arrmatie at 11:29 AM on May 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

I teach about psychoactive drugs from an ethics standpoint, so I don't have any sciencey resources for you, but one thing I use to kick off the conversation and get the kids thinking about why some things are legal and others illegal, why some are considered immoral and some aren't blinked at, is to point out the HUGE number of psychoactive drugs they (potentially) have access to in their homes, from medicine cabinet staples like cough syrup to media scare favorites like "things that can be huffed," from everyday "drugs" like caffeine and alcohol ... to nutmeg, home-grown opium poppies, morning glory seeds, etc.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 11:30 AM on May 12, 2011 [2 favorites]

Drugs, Society and Human Behavior was one of the main texts for the UCSC class. It's a great book, but might be wider in scope than you want.
posted by contraption at 11:30 AM on May 12, 2011 [2 favorites]

I'm not sure if this is exactly what you're looking for, but here are two extremely reliable sources, both of which are aimed at providing comprehensive, unbiased information to health care professionals (and should be accessible through your university):

(1) Uptodate is the place for clinicians and patients to get, well, up-to-date information about health problems. They provide good "just the facts" summaries of health-related topics, aimed either at physicians or at patients. Here's the one for PCP intoxication, which covers pharmacology, cellular toxicology, kinetics, clinical features, differential diagnosis, laboratory evaluation, and management.

(2) The Cochrane Collaboration is the place for evidence-based medicine. They publish systematic reviews of treatments (here's a search for "cocaine"), and thus are the most reliable place for current understanding of drug treatments.
posted by googly at 11:44 AM on May 12, 2011 [2 favorites]

I took a Drugs and Life class in the early 90's as an undergrad. It was one of the best, most informative courses I'd ever taken in my college career. (Not to mention socially useful.) I still have the textbook at home which was a very good general overview of everything from hallucinogens, narcotics, stimulants, alcohol, caffeine, and more. The book and course were excellent because it was completely non-judgmental; neither preachy nor pro-dope and focused strictly on the effects, history, and usage of the substances. I will need to update later with the name and author of the book... stay tuned to this thread! (on preview, it may have been an earlier version of the one Contraption posted but I will check.)

It was a really long time ago that I took the class so I don't recall all of our activities but a couple of the projects/papers I did included interviewing a local drug enforcement police officer about the drug culture in our area and what he saw in his job (he talked a lot about the meth problem); for another paper I wrote about the history & usage of LSD in a research/scientific sense compared/contrasted with its usage in the dance clubs of that time. Awesome class... so glad you're teaching this; I think all young people should go through similar coursework.
posted by cuddles.mcsnuggy at 11:50 AM on May 12, 2011

I want to second contraption's recommendation of "Drugs, Society and Human Behavior". My psychiatrist mother gave me a copy of it in high school and it was great - intelligible to a complete layperson, but detailed (at least from the lay perspective), and not preachy (just factual).
posted by bubukaba at 11:59 AM on May 12, 2011

Best answer: Since you're in Eugene, Lynne Weissfeld has run an excellent class (Drugs, Society, and Behavior) at Lane Community College for many years, and has widespread success with students, especially with mixing sociological with biological in the curriculum. I would definitely recommend getting in contact with her.
posted by CrystalDave at 12:12 PM on May 12, 2011

For a textbook, you might consider the balanced review of a wide range of psychoactive substances provided in The Marriage of the Sun and Moon: Dispatches from the Frontiers of Consciousness by Andrew Weil, MD. I haven't read the recent addition, but the book was ahead of its time in many respects, for example labeling refined sugar the most addictive and destructive white powder known to man.
posted by McGuillicuddy at 12:40 PM on May 12, 2011

I like Dr Bob for Psychopharmacology.
posted by ohshenandoah at 1:19 PM on May 12, 2011

You should also plan to check a teaching of psychology listserv for recommendations, given that there may be texts out there that are more specifically suited to psychology vs. sociology or related areas.
posted by bizzyb at 7:51 PM on May 12, 2011

My Drugs and Behavior class used "Buzzed" as our text, and supplemented with power points for the lectures.
posted by XhaustedProphet at 11:31 PM on May 12, 2011

Best answer: Depending on where exactly you want to go with this course, the Pharmako/ trilogy of books by Dale Pendell (Pharmako/Poeia, Pharmako/Dynamis & Pharmako/Gnosis) offer a very rich, but somewhat oblique, look into a very wide range of psychoactive substances (both legal & illegal) from all kinds of perspectives - from the scientific pharmacological processes to old woodcuts to poetry, alchemy, history and much more.

I wouldn't recommend the entire books as textbooks, but depending on Fair Use laws, it could be useful to give your students a few excerpts to mull over, so to speak.
posted by UbuRoivas at 2:59 AM on May 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

If you decide to integrate any humanities component into your class, I can't highly enough recommend "Writing On Drugs" by Sadie Plant - it's a great and broad-based work of literary and cultural history looking at the interplay between various drugs and the writers most enamored of them (De Quincey and opium; Freud and cocaine; Burroughs and heroin, etc etc etc).

Copies are going for about ten bucks on amazon. Since Plant's work is at least in part historical, and since history is at least in part pretty heavily empirical, it might be worth picking up a copy for yourself to strip-mine her citations, even if you don't end up teaching it.
posted by Pickman's Next Top Model at 6:24 AM on May 13, 2011

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