PSYC E-1425 Opioid Use and Addiction in America
Fall term 2017 CRN 15526
Opioid (for example, prescription painkiller and heroin) use and abuse has increased dramatically in the United States over the last 25 years due to a number of sociological, psychological, and medical factors. In 2015, more than 33,000 people died by opioid overdose in America, an estimated 2.6 million people had an addiction to heroin or prescription pain medication, and health care providers were writing approximately 300 million pain prescriptions a year (enough for every adult to have their own bottle). Yet, many people are not aware of the basic mechanism of the drug in the body, the factors that make some more likely than others to lose control of their medicine, the historical context of the recent surge in use, or the psychological impact on the user and his or her community. This course aims to examine the use of opioids both for the treatment of physical pain or dulling emotional pain, as well as for the purpose of achieving a high. Additionally, we learn about different frameworks for understanding addiction and problematic opioid use, including the biological disease model and the social construction model. Throughout the semester, we trace the historical uses and trading of opium, current attitudes about opioid users and addicts, the hallmarks of dependence/withdrawal/tolerance, governmental policies on opioids, abstinence and harm-reduction treatments for addiction, and how overdose and death occur. Due to the timely nature of this topic, the course includes discussion of current events, improvements in medical interventions, and policy updates related to the opiate crisis.