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Mini Cases in Psychoactive Drugs and Their Effects on the Brain


Darlene A. Mitrano
Molecular Biology
Christopher Newport University


Designed for an upper-level psychology class titled Brain & Behavior, this series of mini-cases can be used in any undergraduate course that covers the major classes of commonly abused legal and illicit psychoactive drugs from a biological standpoint, i.e., understanding how these drugs affect the brain. Each case presents a scenario that college-level students can relate to about an individual using each of the major drug classes (stimulants, depressants, hallucinogens, etc.).  Students are then asked to determine what drug each of the cases is referring to, the subjective effects of the drug that have been reported, and what the biological mechanisms of the drug are, which they present to the class.

  • Identify the different classes of psychoactive drugs of abuse.
  • Explain and identify the major neurotransmitters, receptors, transporters, and brain structures involved in the mechanism of action of drugs of abuse.
  • Identify the subjective effects of psychoactive drugs of abuse.
  • Expand upon students' research abilities through the use of other sources besides the textbook.
  • Apply biologically related research findings to a real-life scenario.
  • Synthesize and present research findings in an understandable way to the rest of the class in order to hone the student's public speaking abilities and enhance peer-led learning
Keywords: Substance use; drug abuse; addictive drugs; addiction mechanism; stimulants, depressants, hallucinogens; neurotransmitter; brain; central nervous system
Topical Area: N/A
Educational Level: Undergraduate lower division, Undergraduate upper division
Formats: PDF
Type/Method: Discussion, Mini-Case, Student Presentations
Language: English
Subject Headings: Neuroscience   Psychology   Pharmacy / Pharmacology   Biology (General)   Physiology   Public Health  
Date Posted: 9/2/2011
Date Modified: N/A
Copyright: Copyright held by the National Center for Case Study Teaching in Science, University at Buffalo, State University of New York. Please see our usage guidelines, which outline our policy concerning permissible reproduction of this work.

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Great stuff, thanks. I'll be able to use this with my International Baccalaureate students when they study their neurobiology option.

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