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COU8013 Introduction to Psychoactive Drugs

Semester 2, 2021 Online
Short Description: Intro to Psychoactive Drugs
Units : 1
Faculty or Section : Faculty of Health, Engineering and Sciences
School or Department : School of Psychology and Counselling
Student contribution band : Professional Pathway Psych
ASCED code : 090701 - Psychology
Grading basis : Graded


Examiner: Rebecca Lane


Pre-requisite: Students must be enrolled in one of the following Programs: GCAD or GDCN or MPPS or GCCO or MCCO


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 individual’s 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 9, 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, Module 10, pertains to ethics and cultural factors as a foundation for professional practice. 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. critically review the history and current status of the classification system for drugs of addiction and misuse
  2. describe the psychophysiology of addictive substances, including their interaction
  3. critically discuss specific drugs and their physical, psychological, and teratogenic risks
  4. describe other recognised drugs of addiction and non-drug addictive behaviours
  5. discriminate between the effects of different drugs and drug classes
  6. apply knowledge of drugs and drug classes to a discipline-specific practice setting
  7. incorporate awareness of discipline-specific ethical practice and cultural awareness to the practice setting


Description Weighting(%)
1. Overview: History and classification of psychoactive drugs 10.00
2. The brain and psychoactive drugs 10.00
3. The uppers: Central nervous system stimulants 10.00
4. The downers: Central nervous system depressants
Part 1: Opiates, benzodiazepines and cannabis
5. The downers: Central nervous system depressants
Part 2: Alcohol
6. The downers: Central nervous system depressants
Part 3: Volatile substance misuse
7. Hallucinogens, and ecstasy and related drugs (ERDs) 10.00
8. Psychoactive drugs and mental health 10.00
9. The impact of psychoactive drug use on pregnancy 10.00
10. Ethics and cultural aspects of psychoactive drugs 10.00

Text and Materials

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. (

Abadinsky, H 2017, Drug Use and Abuse, A Comprehensive Introduction, 9th edn, Wadsworth, Belmont, CA.

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.
Inaba, D. & Cohen, W 2014, Uppers, Downers, And All Arounders:, Physical and Mental Effects of Psychoactive Drugs, 8th edn, CNS Publications, Medford.
Maisto, S., Galizio, M. & Connors, G 2018, Drug Use And Abuse, 8th edn, Thomson Wadsworth, Belmont, CA.
Rassool, G. H 2017, Alcohol and Drug Misuse:, A Guide for Health and Social Care Professionals, 2nd edn, Routledge, New York.
Other resources and references will be accessible via DiReCt on the course home page..

Student Workload Expectations

Activity Hours
Assessments 30.00
Directed Study 50.00
Online Lectures 12.00
Private Study 78.00

Assessment Details

Description Marks out of Wtg (%) Due Date Objectives Assessed Notes
Case Study 100 60 08 Oct 2021 6,7
Online Quiz 1 20 5 02 Nov 2021 1,2
Online Quiz 2 20 10 02 Nov 2021 1,2
Online Quiz 3 20 10 02 Nov 2021 1,2,3
Online Quiz 4 20 10 02 Nov 2021 3,4
Online Quiz 5 20 5 02 Nov 2021 3,4

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 pass 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:
    Students should refer to the Assessment Procedure (point 4.2.4)

  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:
    Deferred and Supplementary examinations will be held in accordance with the Assessment Procedure

  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 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. Reliable access to the internet is a requirement of this course as the course contains electronic assessment and submission elements. In order to avoid internet issues, on-campus students should attempt the quizzes in the student computer laboratories. External students who knowingly do not have reliable access to the internet should actively seek alternative internet access (e.g., Internet cafes, local libraries, or work places) for assessment submission and electronic assessment attempts. External students are able to use the on-campus student computer laboratories once access has been enabled. To be granted access, external students need to contact ICT and ask to have a student account enabled so that they can work on-campus.

  6. There is no Residential School for this course.

  7. APA style is the preferred 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.

Date printed 8 November 2021