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PSY3040 : Psychobiology of Drug Addiction

  • Offered for Year: 2023/24
  • Module Leader(s): Dr Zachary Petzel
  • Owning School: Psychology
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus

Your programme is made up of credits, the total differs on programme to programme.

Semester 1 Credit Value: 10
ECTS Credits: 5.0
European Credit Transfer System


The module will provide an overview on the current status of research in the field of drug addiction. With a diverse set of psychological theories proposed to explain addictive behaviours, the aim of the module is to focus on the current research in the drug addictions, understand some of the basic concepts within drug taking, appreciate the importance of the research methods used to model addiction in laboratory animals and also the translation to human psychopharmacological studies that utilise neuroimaging and pharmacogenetics.

Outline Of Syllabus

The psychopharmacology of drug action will be covered with specific lectures on the various classes of drugs of abuse, their molecular and cellular mechanisms of action and how they all work within a unitary circuit to induce dependence. Aspects of comorbidity along with individual vulnerability will be presented. Finally, the different approaches taken to treat drug addiction will be reviewed, using both pharmacological and behavioural strategies.

Topics include:

      Drug use and addiction – Aspects of harm and classification of drug addictions (DSM-V)
Learning theories in addiction – operant and classical conditioning
Primary reinforcement vs Habitual drug taking in humans
      Neuropharmacology of psychomotor stimulants, caffeine & alcohol
      Neuropharmacology of opioids, nicotine and alcohol and cannabinoids
Animal models of drug addiction
      Comorbidity: overlap of neural circuits with psychiatric disorders
      Impact on cognitive processes: relevance to self-medication
Behavioural traits predisposing drug addictions/Individual vulnerability
      Treatment – Pharmacological and Behavioural Interventions

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture111:0011:00Present in person
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading221:0022:00Journal articles, textbook chapters, and other relevant resources to supplement lectures/workshops
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesWorkshops111:0011:00Present in person
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study156:0056:00Students' independent study of course materials, prep for assessment, reflection on course topics
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

Lectures will be used as the main way to impart basic knowledge and to stimulate interest in the topics. The interactive workshop sessions will allow further discussion of concepts taught via the lecture material and give the opportunity for students to engage in course material through taking part in small scale psychological experiments, critiquing psychological theories of addiction, and discussing contemporary research and treatments. A series of case studies presented in the workshops will also allow students to gain important perspectives on addiction and substance use disorders. Workshops will also provide a springboard to discuss research methods and treatments in addiction grounded in realistic and applied examples. Use of face-to-face group discussions and classroom polling throughout the course will further facilitates student interactions and provides ample opportunities to learn about the essay questions which might be used in the final summative assignment (formative practice). The private, independent study time will allow students to carry out in depth review of the information imparted through lecture materials, to consolidate their learning and generate their own views, that can be shared with others during in-person workshops and followed up by independent reading.

Assessment Methods

The format of resits will be determined by the Board of Examiners

Description Length Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Written Examination1201A100Essay questions (2 out of 5 questions); unseen, present in person
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

The written examination will require students to choose 2 of 5 topics to discuss from the module content. Based on the chosen topics in drug addiction, the exam will assess students’ ability to acquire and disseminate detailed, systematic, and comprehensive knowledge within the discipline, in addition to demonstrating their advanced critical understanding and evaluation of addiction research. Furthermore, the final written examination will require students to review and critically evaluate published work at an advanced level and summarize the information in the form of a concise essays which should be presented in a series of logical, coherent, and sustained arguments. The essay will also assess the students' skills in written communication. Assessment in the form of an examination is an appropriate way to assess both theoretical understanding and problem-solving skills under time constraint. Knowledge and understanding in the field of drug addictions, and the material presented during lectures, will be assessed.

Reading Lists