Psychopharmacology (Drugs & Psychology)

Study this psychopharmacology course to understand how different types of drugs (manmade and natural) influence our behaviour. Discover how substance abuse, dependency, and withdrawal affect the nervous system, and the impact of drugs on society.

Course CodeBPS302
Fee CodeS3
Duration (approx)100 hours
QualificationStatement of Attainment

It's Easy to Enrol

Select a Learning Method

I am studying from...

Enable Javascript to automatically update prices.

All prices in Australian Dollars.

Click on Enrol Now to See Our Payment Plans Available. No Obligation.

Courses can be started at any time from anywhere in the world!


There are many different types of substance which affect the human nervous system. People consume drugs for a variety of reasons. Some of these are prescriptions drugs, others are illicit drugs, some are everyday substances such as caffeine found in beverages. Sometimes people develop a dependency on a particular drug, sometimes people abuse a drug occasionally or regularly, and sometimes people experience side-effects or withdrawal symptoms when they take or stop taking a drug.

There are many different careers where an understanding of the influence of drugs on the nervous system is advantageous.


This course will enhance your understanding of different types of drugs and how they affect behaviour.  

  • Study how our thinking can be affected by both legal and illegal drugs
  • Understand the effects of pain killers, alcohol and prescription drugs
  • Learn differences between the main groups of illicit drugs
  • Find out differences between drug abuse and dependence
  • Improve your understanding of drugs and people
Pharmaceuticals can have a big impact upon human behaviour. Sometimes they may be necessary for pain relief or some other health benefit. Sometimes they may not be needed, but rather, just desired. Some are addictive and others are not. When chemicals are taken into the human body they often have side-effects which are often not recognised or under-appreciated. 

Lesson Structure

There are 11 lessons in this course:

  1. Introduction
    • 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
    • Ecstacy 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
    • Phencylidine (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 addictionBehavioural and psychosocial treatments for drug addiction
    • Treatments for heroin addiction
    • Behavioural therapies for heroin addiction
    • Detoxification

Each lesson culminates in an assignment which is submitted to the school, marked by the school's tutors and returned to you with any relevant suggestions, comments, and if necessary, extra reading.


  • 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 mis-use;
  • 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.

What You Will Do

  • Explain through case studies the difference between drug abuse and drug misuse;
  • Explain through examples the difference between recreational and instrumental drug-taking;
  • Describe major changes in drug taking behaviour from the nineteenth century to the twentieth century;
  • Investigate why some people are more likely than others to engage in drug abuse behaviour;
  • Contrast the difference of attitudes to drug taking between cultures;
  • Differentiate between drug tolerance and behavioural tolerance;
  • Differentiate between physical and psychological drug dependence;
  • Describe factors contributing to physiological effects of a drug on the body;
  • Learn how psychoactive drugs affect neurotransmitters;
  • Consider how personal expectations influence the effects of drug taking;
  • Learn how cocaine affects the mind and body;
  • List side effects of long and short-term amphetamine use;
  • Explain how to treat cocaine and amphetamine users;
  • Explain how heroin affects the mind and body;
  • Describe how narcotics been used successfully in medicine;
  • Describe how opiates affect the brain;
  • Discuss the effectiveness of the main approaches to treating heroin abuse;
  • Discuss the negative effects regular marijuana use has on quality of life;
  • Discuss the use of steroids in sport and drug control of athletes;
  • Identify health, behavioural, and lifestyle outcomes of alcohol use and misuse;
  • Develop a case study of a person being treated with anti-anxiety drugs;
  • Consider how anti-psychotic drugs work in the brain;
  • Identify the three main types of anti-depressants;
  • Identify drugs used to alleviate panic attacks and bipolar disorder;
  • Consider dilemmas faced when trying to test out new drugs for schizophrenia;
  • Discuss the ‘bio-psychosocial’ approach to treatment of drug abuse;
  • Describe the stage theory of treatment and recovery.

Psychological effects of drugs


The history of drugs is shrouded in the beginnings of the human race. Alcohol was made, drunk, and used to excess as far back as memory and records go. Tobacco (Nicotiana), hemp (Cannabis sativa), opium poppy (Papaver somniferum), and other plants containing drugs have been chewed and smoked almost as long as alcohol, and coffee has been served in the Middle East throughout that area's history.

“Drugs” is a word used by the medical profession to refer to medicines that can cure or arrest disease or alleviate symptoms, ease pain or provide other benefits. Powerful drugs may have side effects, but commonly used drugs with less potential to harm can be sold over the counter. More powerful drugs often require a medical practitioner’s prescription. Another definition of drugs is those substances upon which a person may become dependent. These range from mild stimulants eg. Caffeine, to powerful drugs that alter mood and behaviour. The term “drug” is therefore any substance which is psychoactive – that is, mind altering.

Fortunately, as research shows, most people don't suffer any ill-effects to their mental health as a direct result of using most drugs, of course there are some drugs that may have a lasting change to the psyche. They may feel better, in the short term, and believe they benefit from a variety of social and other factors, in the long term. Trying to get them to stop, when they don't want to, is therefore unlikely to work.

For a few people, taking drugs is a purely recreational activity. But for some, it offers a relief from other problems, and for others, it may be a symptom of problems rather than a cause. If you are concerned about someone who is taking drugs, you need to focus on their feelings, behaviour, and personal circumstances, and not on their drug use, in isolation. The most effective way of supporting a drug user who is having mental health problems is to see the drug as just one element affecting them, and not necessarily the major one. Their own feelings about their drug use, the reasons for it and its consequences need to be understood before any action is taken. If the person decides that their drug use is a problem, and they want to do something about it, the organizations, opposite, should be able to help.

Any drug will affect a user’s perceptions and behaviour, and may magnify their mood or their underlying mental state. But drugs affect people in different ways, at different times. Just because someone is taking a particular drug, doesn’t mean their mental health will be affected in the way but their chemical and psychological balance may be. Nor is it right to assume that someone demonstrating the effects listed is taking drugs.

Some people are fooled into believing that some substances are 'safe' because they're not physically addictive. It's the demands your mind can create which really prove hard to beat. Psychological dependence is a risk with any drug. A substance which affects your mood can easily become addictive, especially if you start thinking it's a better feeling than being straight.

Smoking a lot of marijuana leaves some people thinking they have to get stoned to cope with the world. It can be the mind which gets hooked on stimulants such as crack and cocaine rather than the body. This is because the "hit" is intense but doesn't last long, and so many users feel the need to 'chase the high' by taking more and more, all the while developing a resistance to a drug, so needing more and more to get the same effect.

While some people are more likely to develop a psychological addiction than others, it's impossible to predict as your state of mind is always changing. There are no guarantees.

Kicking a psychological addiction can be as testing as a physical withdrawal.

How This Course Could Help You

This course is an ideal introduction to the effects of different groups of substances on the mind and behaviour. From hallucinogens to hypnotics and stimulants to antidepressants, a wide range of drugs is discussed including those found in everyday consumables, like caffeine, and those which are 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.

This course will be of particular interest to people working in, or hoping to work in:

  • Counselling
  • Addictions counselling
  • Psychotherapy
  • Psychology
  • Social work
  • Nursing
  • Caring roles
  • Health professions

Need assistance?

Start Now!


Lyn Quirk

M.Prof.Ed.; Adv.Dip.Compl.Med (Naturopathy); Adv.Dip.Sports Therapy Over 30 years as Health Club Manager, Fitness Professional, Teacher, Coach and Business manager in health, fitness and leisure industries. As business owner and former department head fo
Jade Sciascia

Biologist, Business Coordinator, Government Environmental Dept, Secondary School teacher (Biology); Recruitment Consultant, Senior Supervisor in Youth Welfare, Horse Riding Instructor (part-completed) and Boarding Kennel Manager. Jade has a B.Sc.Biol, Di
Jacinda Cole

Psychologist, Educator, Author, Psychotherapist. B.Sc., Psych.Cert., M. Psych. Cert.Garden Design, MACA Jacinda has over 25 years of experience in psychology, in both Australia and England. She holds a BSc (Hons) in Psychology and a Masters in Psycholo
Tracey Jones

B.Sc. (Psych), M.Soc.Sc., Dip.Social Work, P.G.Dip Learning Disability, Cert Editing, Cert Creative Writing, PGCE. Member British Psychological Society, Member Assoc. for Coaching, Member British Learning Assoc. 25 years industry experience in writing,
Aerobic Fitness
Understand cardio respiratory fitness. Keep your heart, lungs and circulatory system healthy. Aerobic fitness can contribute more to your quality of life than any other aspect of fitness! This updated version of a book originally published by Kangaroo Pr
Human Biology
For any new student of human biology, being confronted with thousands of unfamiliar words can be overwhelming. It can also be difficult to identify which words you need to learn first. This book presents words that have been carefully selected as the most
Professional Practice for Consultants
Explore becoming a consultant. This ebook contains chapters on how to be a consultant, packaging your services, delivering the services, building your resources, finding the work and getting the job, planning and ethics.
Psychological Profiling
Psychological profiling is used to assess anyone from potential new staff and school children to serial killers. It helps you to determine someone’s personality, neuroses, mental health and career suitability. This book provides an excellent overview of p