Psychopharmacology of Drugs of Abuse and Reward
Full course description
This course attempts to explain how abuse of psychotropic agents affects the brain. The approach taken is to discuss how non-therapeutic use, short-term abuse, and the complications of long term use of drugs affect both chemical neurotransmission and the pathways of reward and reinforcement in the brain. Vulnerability to develop a drug addiction is influenced by inter-individual variations in genetic expression, prefrontal dopamine (DA), and cognitive coping. The factors above, may couple with drug-induced impairment of inhibitory mechanisms which are involved in the control and regulation of behaviour. Loss of behavioural control and impulsivity are generally seen as a criterion of substance addiction. In addition to cognitive and biological mechanisms underlying drug addiction, this course will also focus on long-term cognitive deficits in drug users, as well as pharmacological and cognitive treatment interventions.
This course deals with a set of disorders that is highly prevalent in forensic mental health settings; substance use disorders. Research among prisoners and forensic psychiatric patients has revealed life-time prevalence rates of substance use disorders are around 80%. Often, substance use disorders are co-morbid to other Axis I and Axis II disorders. In the past, substance use disorders were discussed from a moral perspective: addictions to alcohol and/or drugs were considered a person’s own fault, largely the result of lack of will power. Nowadays, psychopharmacological, cognitive psychological and neuroscientific notions dominate the theoretical and empirical literature on substance use and abuse, resulting in new avenues for prevention and treatment. This course will cover the most important, recent scientific insights into substance use disorders, with the aim of preparing students to apply this knowledge in their work with cases in forensic settings.
Students are able to understand:
- psychopharmacology of drugs of abuse;
- neuroscience of addiction;
- substance use disorders;
- application of the former issues in forensic settings.