BIOL2112: This is Your Brain On Drugs

Biological Perspectives on Addiction


In 2017, Ohio was second only to West Virginia in the per capita opioid overdose rate and is in the top five in the number of reported overdoses. Drug use is highest for people in their late teens and early twenty’s, the age of most college students and when the brain may be particularly susceptible to drug-induced modification. This course will provide students with an opportunity to discuss reliable, evidence-based information on how drugs of abuse can interact with a nervous system inherited from their parents coupled with environmental factors that includes community and can lead to addiction. Understanding the complexity of substance abuse will prepare students to engage in and understand the medical, sociological and political ramifications of addiction. This course is designed for students in any major, especially non-STEM majors. 

Students will work in groups that will include both STEM and non-STEM majors. Students will explore current theories on how drugs of abuse lead to dependence and addiction and the influences of developmental, genetic, physiological, social, and community factors. The emphasis will be on concepts, with details kept to a minimum. Students will explore how neurons in relevant brain regions communicate with each other and integrate the varied experiences that are involved in pleasure, reward, and memory. We will investigate why psychostimulants, nicotine, alcohol, and opioids each affect the nervous system, and how changes in the brain can influence drug-seeking behaviors, tolerance to the drug, and withdrawal symptoms if drug use stops abruptly. The course will use a custom textbook, relevant websites, videos, personal histories, and primary literature. We will explore many of the risk factors for addiction and examine treatments used to help addicted individuals. Students will keep a journal to react on how new knowledge impacts their understanding, perception, and personal identification with what they see, read or hear about addiction and its consequences. 

Past Offerings