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PSY5030 Introduction to Psychoactive Drugs

Semester 2, 2011 External Toowoomba
Units : 1
Faculty or Section : Faculty of Sciences
School or Department : Psychology

Contents on this page


Examiner: Andrea Quinn
Moderator: Tony Machin


Pre-requisite: Students must be enrolled in Program: GCAD


In the years since the mid-1980s, Australia has developed a multifaceted public health approach to the problem of alcohol and other drug (AOD) use and misuse. Just as multifaceted, however, is the nature of the problem itself. The use of psychoactive substances can vary widely in terms of method of administration or ingestion, the interaction with an individualís biology and psychological makeup, and the potential for recovery and rehabilitation. For those who work with alcohol and/or drug using clients, knowledge of the range of substances and their presentation is fundamental to decisions regarding intervention and treatment. A thorough grounding in such knowledge enables competent discrimination between the types of substance used, their effects on individual clients, and the capacity to distinguish AOD effects from biological and environmental factors.


This course focuses primarily on acquisition of foundation knowledge and is divided into three parts. The first part, Modules 1 and 2, concern the evolution and current status of drug classification systems, as well as information about the psychophysiology of drug addiction. The second part, Modules 3 to 7, focuses on specific classes of drugs, including stimulants, depressants, and alcohol, and covers all of the common and emergent forms of substance misuse. Students are guided through readings and activities to develop their core knowledge of drug classes, the effects of each drug type, including physical, psychological, and teratogenic risks, and the rehabilitative potential for each. The final aspect of the course, Modules 8 to 10, pertain to prevention, treatment, ethics and cultural factors, as a foundation for professional practice or as preparation for related courses in the Graduate Certificate/Diploma in Alcohol and Drug Studies. The course is presented in a structured 10-module format, and assessed via a series of online quizzes and a major written assignment addressing a discipline-specific or practice-relevant topic.


On completion of this course students should be able to:

  1. describe the history and current status of the classification system for drugs of addiction and misuse
  2. describe the psychophysiology of addictive substances
  3. describe the biological and environmental factors in addiction, including their interaction
  4. demonstrate knowledge of specific drugs and their physical, psychological, and teratogenic risks
  5. describe other recognised drugs of addiction and non-drug addictive behaviours
  6. demonstrate ability to discriminate between the effects of different drugs and drug classes
  7. demonstrate ability to apply knowledge of drugs and drug classes to a discipline-specific practice setting
  8. demonstrate ability to incorporate awareness of discipline-specific ethical practice and cultural awareness to the practice setting


Description Weighting(%)
1. History and classification of psychoactive drugs 10.00
2. The brain and psychoactive drugs 10.00
3. Uppers: Central nervous system stimulants 10.00
4. Downers 1: Opiates, benzodiazepines and cannabis 10.00
5. Downers 2: Alcohol 10.00
6. Downers 3: Volatile substance misuse 10.00
7. Hallucinogens, and ecstasy and related drugs (ERDs) 10.00
8. Psychoactive drugs and mental health 10.00
9. Teratogenic effects 10.00
10. Ethics and cultural aspects of psychoactive drugs 10.00

Text and materials required to be purchased or accessed

ALL textbooks and materials available to be purchased can be sourced from USQ's Online Bookshop (unless otherwise stated). (

Please contact us for alternative purchase options from USQ Bookshop. (

  • Inaba, D. S. & Cohen, W. E 2007, Uppers, Downers, All Arounders: Physical and Mental Effects of Psychoactive Drugs, CNS Publications Inc, Medford.
    (Vol 6.)
  • Maisto, S, Galizio, M & Connors, G 2011, Drug use and abuse, 6th edn, Thomson Wadsworth, Belmont, CA.
  • Rassool, GH 2009, Alcohol and drug misuse - a handbook for students and health professionals, Routledge, New York.

Reference materials

Reference materials are materials that, if accessed by students, may improve their knowledge and understanding of the material in the course and enrich their learning experience.
  • Other resources and references will be accessible via DiReCt on the course home page.

Student workload requirements

Activity Hours
Assessments 30.00
Directed Study 62.00
Private Study 78.00

Assessment details

Description Marks out of Wtg (%) Due Date Notes
Case Study Assignment 100 50 28 Oct 2011
Online Quiz 1 20 10 28 Oct 2011 (see note 1)
Online Quiz 2 20 10 28 Oct 2011
Online Quiz 3 20 10 28 Oct 2011
Online Quiz 4 20 10 28 Oct 2011
Online Quiz 5 20 10 28 Oct 2011

  1. On-line quizzes will be released on the course home page and can be completed at any time during the semester. Students may attempt each quiz twice, using all the readings and resources provided, and their recorded marks will be the highest marks achieved for each quiz on the last day of the last teaching week of the semester. See assessment section of the Introductory Book for further details and the grading rationale.

Important assessment information

  1. Attendance requirements:
    There are no attendance requirements for this course. However, it is students' responsibility to participate appropriately in all activities scheduled for them (such as Study Book activities and practical work), and to study all material provided to them or required to be accessed by them to maximise their chance of meeting the objectives of the course and to be informed of course-related activities and administration.

  2. Requirements for students to complete each assessment item satisfactorily:
    Students do not have to satisfactorily complete each of the assessment items to be awarded a passing grade in the course. Refer to Statement 4 below for the requirements to receive a passing grade in this course.

  3. Penalties for late submission of required work:
    No penalties applied if the required conditions are met as specified in the Introductory Book. If students submit assignments after the due date without (prior) approval of the Examiner then a penalty of 5% of the total marks gained by the student for the assignment may apply for each working day late up to ten working days at which time a mark of zero may be recorded. No assignments will be accepted after model answers have been posted.

  4. Requirements for student to be awarded a passing grade in the course:
    To be assured of a passing grade a student must achieve at least 50% of the total weighted marks for the summative assessment items.

  5. Method used to combine assessment results to attain final grade:
    The final grades for students will be assigned on the basis of the weighted aggregate of the marks (or grades) obtained for each of the summative assessment items.

  6. Examination information:
    There is no examination for this course.

  7. Examination period when Deferred/Supplementary examinations will be held:
    As there are no examinations in this course, there will be no deferred or supplementary examinations.

  8. University Student Policies:
    Students should read the USQ policies: Definitions, Assessment and Student Academic Misconduct to avoid actions which might contravene University policies and practices. These policies can be found at

Assessment notes

  1. The due date for an assignment is the date by which a student must despatch the assignment to the USQ. Students may be required to provide a copy of assignments submitted for assessment purposes. Such copies should be despatched to the USQ within 24 hours of receipt of a request to do so.

  2. Students must retain a copy of each item submitted for assessment. This must be produced within five days if required by the Course Examiner.

  3. The Course Examiner may grant an extension of the due date of an assignment in extenuating circumstances.

  4. Students who have undertaken all of the required assessments in a course but who have failed to meet some of the specified objectives of a course within the normally prescribed time may be awarded the temporary grade: IM (Incomplete - Make up). An IM grade will only be awarded when, in the opinion of the Examiner, a student will be able to achieve the remaining objectives of the course after a period of non-directed personal study.

  5. Students who, for medical, family/personal, or employment-related reasons, are unable to complete an assignment may apply to defer an assessment in a course. Such a request must be accompanied by appropriate supporting documentation. One of the following temporary grades may be awarded IDS (Incomplete - Deferred Examination; IDM (Incomplete Deferred Make-up); IDB (Incomplete - Both Deferred Examination and Deferred Make-up).

  6. Students will require access to email and internet access to USQConnect for this course. The onus is on students to ensure internet access is of sufficient speed and quality to accommodate the on-line quizzes.

  7. This course has a voluntary Residential School.

  8. APA style is the referencing system required in this course. Students should use APA style in their assignments to format details of the information sources they have cited in their work. The APA style to be used is defined by the USQ Library's referencing guide. //