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Duration (approx) 100 hours
Qualification Statement of Attainment

Learn about how drugs and other substances affect the brain and behaviour.

Study this course to increase your knowledge of the impact of drug use on both the individual and society in general.
Learn about illegal drug use, over the counter and prescription drug use, everyday drugs like alcohol, caffeine and nicotine, and much more.

Apply what you learn in this course to counselling and caring roles.

You can commence your studies whenever you are ready and to, and study at your own pace.





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The relationship between the brain, substances and behaviour

This course introduces students to the effects of different groups of substances on the mind and behaviour. It includes hallucinogens, hypnotics, stimulants, antidepressants, and a range of other drugs including those found in everyday consumables such as beverages.
Substances acquired legally through prescription medications or over the counter drugs. Students will learn about what these substances do, both in the short term and long term, and some ways to help people overcome dependency.


  • Learn more about illegal drug use, such as marijuana, hallucinogens, and heroin.
  • Learn about over the counter and prescription drug use, alcohol, tobacco and caffeine misuse.
  • This course is a must for anyone interested in learning more about drugs and psychology.
  • Useful for anyone working with people who use/misuse drugs, or for those with a personal interest in this area.
Duration:  100 hours


Course Content

There are eleven lessons in the course -

1. Introduction: A history of the use and misuse of drugs in society

  • Scope and nature of drugs; legal and illegal
  • Amphetamine
  • Cocaine
  • Crack
  • LSD
  • Ritalin
  • Steroids
  • How heroin is used
  • Medical consequences of chronic heroin abuse
  • Names used for heroin 

2. Effects of drugs on the individual and society

  • Community acceptance
  • Terminology
  • Why people use drugs
  • Addiction; how drugs work in the brain
  • Central nervous system
  • Physiological and psychological effects of drugs
  • Alcohol effects
  • Sedative effects
  • Stimulant effects
  • Hallucinogenics
  • Psychological effects of drugs

3. Legally restricted drugs: Stimulants and narcotics

  • Stimulants
  • Symptoms of abuse
  • How cocaine is abused
  • How does cocaine effect the brain
  • What adverse effects does cocaine have on health
  • Added danger; cocaethylene
  • Treatment options
  • Scope of cocaine abuse
  • Narcotics
  • Abuse symptoms
  • Forms and dangers
  • Designer drugs
  • Ecstasy pill

4. Legally restricted drugs: Hallucinogens and marijuana

  • Effects of hallucinogens
  • Symptoms of abuse
  • LSD
  • Hallucinogen persisting perception disorder
  • Marijuana
  • Effects of marijuana on the brain
  • Symptoms of abuse, forms of marijuana and dangers
  • Phencyclidine (PCP)
  • Symptoms of abuse, forms of PCP and dangers

5. Legally restricted drugs: Steroids

  • Steroids
  • Symptoms of abuse, forms of steroids and dangers

6. Legal drugs: Alcohol 

  • Symptoms of abuse and dangers with alcohol
  • Alcoholism
  • Staying in control with alcohol
  • Alcohol amnestic syndrome (Korsakoff's syndrome)
  • Treating korsakoff's syndrome)
  • Alcohol and the developing brain

7. Legal drugs: Tobacco, caffeine and solvents

  • Nicotine addiction
  • Effects of nicotine on the circulatory system
  • Caffeine
  • Caffeine addiction
  • Solvents (volitile solvent abuse): symptoms and dangers

8. Prescription and over-the-counter drugs

  • Prescription drugs (Over the counter or OTC)
  • Groups of prescription drugs
  • Misuse of OTC drugs
  • Opioids
  • Treatments for opioid addiction
  • CNS depressants
  • Stimulants
  • Stimulant abuse and treatment for stimulant addiction

9. Sedatives and anti-anxiety drugs

  • Anti anxiety drugs
  • Barbituates
  • Benzodiazepines
  • Depressants
  • Rohypnol

10. Prescription drugs for schizophrenia and affective disorders

  • Schizophrenia
  • Onset of schizophrenia
  • Symptoms of schizophrenia
  • Treatment for schizophrenia
  • Anti psychotic drugs
  • Patient support system
  • Depression
  • Depressive disorders
  • Type of depression
  • Unipolar disorder
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Causes of depression
  • Anti depressants

11. Treatment and preventative education

  • Drug addiction
  • Behavioural and psychosocial treatments for drug addiction
  • Treatments for heroin addiction
  • Behavioural therapies for heroin addiction
  • Detoxification



  • Understand the origins and changes in drug use in society;
  • Identify patterns of drug-taking behaviour;
  • Identify social, psychological and physical consequences of drug-taking on the individual;
  • Understand the effects of stimulants and narcotics on the individual;
  • Understand the effects of hallucinogens and marijuana on the individual;
  • Understand the effects of anabolic steroids on the individual;
  • Determine health and behavioural outcomes of alcohol use and misuse;
  • Determine health and behavioural outcomes of nicotine, caffeine and solvent use and misuse;
  • Understand the effects of the major categories of OTC drugs and prescription regulations;
  • Understand the effects of sedatives and anti-anxiety drugs on the brain and behaviour;
  • Understand the effects of different types of anti-psychotic and anti-depressant drugs on the brain and behaviour;
  • Describe different methods of treatment and prevention of drug-abuse and to discuss ways of educating the public as to the outcomes of taking drugs.


Why Do People Take Drugs?

Some people may take drugs for entertainment and enjoyment. This is sometimes termed 'recreational drug use', a term which almost makes it sound like a relaxing pastime.  Some people may try drugs out of curiosity, perhaps because they believe they will have a good time. Others take drugs to reduce stress levels or anxiety, or at least because they believe that this is what is happening. This may be illegal drugs, but prescribed or over the counter drugs are also misused and abused. 

Some people may take drugs with no serious consequences and without developing dependence, whilst others can suffer adverse effects to a single dose or quickly develop dependence.  The fact that some people are more vulnerable to dependence than others can be attributed to a range of factors, such as:

  • A family history of addiction
  • Other mental conditions, such as anxiety or depression
  • Early use of drugs
  • Abuse, neglect or trauma
  • The way the drugs are administered.

Taking a drug does not automatically lead to addiction, but at a certain point drug use can move from being casual to being a problem.  It is not really about the amount consumed or how often, but the consequences of the drug use.  If drug use causes problems in a person’s life, then they may have a drug abuse or dependence problem. 

When a person takes a drug, repeated use can cause changes:

  • Recreational drugs increase the dopamine levels in your brain, which trigger pleasurable feelings. A person may want those feelings to be repeated, increasing the likelihood they will reuse the drug.
  • When a person becomes dependent, they may feel they need the drug to survive.
  • Drugs interfere with the person’s ability to think clearly, control their behaviour and exercise good judgement.
  • Cravings for some drugs may become more important than anything else, including their own health, happiness, their family and friends.
Taking drugs can fill a need for some people. It may calm them if they are stressed, help them to feel confident in stressful situations, give them relief from pain, fill a void in their life. If drug use does affect a person’s health or life, they should seek professional help and support.

Where is Psychopharmacology Relevant?

In today's world, most people use drugs either legal or non legal; and whenever they use them, there are side effects that may impact upon behaviour and/or health.

Whether you are taking drugs, or dealing with someone else, an understanding of psychopharmacology helps you understand the situation at hand.

People who can benefit from this course may include:

  • Counsellors, welfare workers, psychologists
  • Health care workers, medics and administration staff, to practitioners
  • Sales staff in a pharmacy or liquor shop
  • Employers and personnel managers
  • Anyone else dealing with colleagues, clients, employees or friends who have issues with any type of legal or illegal drug.






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Meet some of our academics

Tracey Jones (psychology)B.Sc. (Hons) (Psychology), M.Soc.Sc (social work), DipSW (social work), PGCE (Education), PGD (Learning Disability Studies) Tracey began studying psychology in 1990. She has a wide range of experience within the psychology and social work field, particularly working with people with learning disabilities. She is also qualified as a teacher and now teaches psychology and social work related subjects. She has been a book reviewer for the British Journal of Social Work and has also written many textbooks, blogs, articles and ebooks on psychology, writing, sociology, child development and more. She has had also several short stories published.
Dr. Gareth PearceGraduated from the University of Nottingham in 1982 with a B.Sc.(Hons) in Animal Science. Between 82 and 85 worked as Research Assistant and Demonstator in Animal Science at the University of Leeds. Over more than 30 years he has furthered his studies, obtaining eight significant university qualifications including degrees in Veterinary Science, Wildlife Conservation and Animal Behaviour. Gareth has significant teaching experience around the world as a faculty member at eight different universities including Associate Professor at Murdoch University and Director of Studies in Veterinary Science at Cambridge University. He has over 100 prestigious research papers published, and enjoys an outstanding international reputation in the fields of animal and veterinary science.

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