Linking Science and Social Issues

Science topics covered and their link to civic or policy issues

Civic, socioeconomic, legal and policy issues that are associated with addiction are many and the course attempts to integrate various issues that were relevant to the science topic being covered. The following table shows the breadth of coverage of civic and policy issues. The idea is to expose students to various aspects of impact of addiction instead of limiting the coverage to a single narrow theme. The attempt is to bring attention to controversies associated with substance use and abuse. Both sides of a given issue were brought to the attention of students and the students were allowed to form informed opinions and discuss the issue in class. If they took a position, they were expected to be able to defend it based on the science and scholarly work.

Science Topic Civic or Policy Issues
An overview of human organ systems and life processes including homeostasis; integration and control of human body (nervous system); biological basis of addiction, dependence and tolerance, drugs and alteration of communication Should addiction be considered a disability?
Is addiction a brain disease or is it a mere lack of self control?
Alcohol absorption, distribution and elimination
Alcohol, central nervous system and health
How successful are current treatment programs?
Discussion of moral vs. medical models of addiction and their impact on policies
Cognitive theories of alcohol use and abuse
Psychological basis of tolerance and dependence
Effects of alcohol on behavior: cognition and mood
Relationship between alcohol addiction and other social problems such as domestic violence, crime, child abuse and neglect, fetal alcohol syndrome and suicide
Antioxidants, their role in human health and metabolism, and antioxidants in alcoholic beverages Is alcohol good for your health?
Basic concepts in genetics: gene, gene expression, pedigree analysis
Is there a genetic basis for alcohol addiction?
Are there pleasure seeking genes?
Should genetic screening for addiction be used to prevent socioeconomic costs of alcohol addiction?
Interaction of genes and environment: twin and adoption studies Privacy and insurance issue related to genetic and neurological tests for addiction. Should having susceptibility genes be considered by insurance industry?
Smoking and health Is it wrong to use nicotine as a memory enhancement tool?
Nicotine and behavior & mood
Smoking cessation and the reinforcing effects of nicotine use
Is the money spent on cessation programs a waste?
Biochemical basis of nicotine addiction
Effects of second hand smoke
Smokers' rights vs. non-smokers' rights
Should it be legal to discriminate against addicts?
Central nervous system and marijuana
Marijuana metabolism
Should medicinal use of marijuana be legalized?
Medico-legal issues of addiction
Behavioral and neuropsychological effects of marijuana, intoxication, tolerance, and dependence Amotivational syndrome reduces productivity of persons in the workforce and in school, creating burdens on society
Psychostimulants and augmentation of neurotransmitters Rights and responsibilities of health professionals dealing with addiction
Psychosis, violence, and aggression Domestic violence, crime and mental disorders