UWSP  Psychology Dept.  Dr. P's Place 
Psychoactive Drugs & Behavior - 290 (Sec. 1)
Dr. M. Plonsky - Fall, 2017
(Last update 8/30/17).
Class meets Wednesdays from 3:30-6:00 p.m. in Sci-D224.

Please bookmark this Syllabus page, print it, & use it as a reference throughout the semester.
While it may be modified, you will be notified of any modifications through announcements in class and/or email.
Contents & Resources:
Course Description - goals, readings, attendance (& notes), grading,expectations, additional issues, contact info.
Tentative Class Schedule
Grade Postings (Grading Code Collection Form - please fill out during the first week of class).
Textbook's Website (Navigate 2) - includes eBook access & study aids. Note it will cost $59.95 to gain access for the semester. I will be forwarding an email with a code that will enable you to receive a 30% discount.

Course Description

From the catalog course description, the course will be an "Introduction to psychopharmacology; examine effects of commonly used drugs on the central nervous system, behavior, and the motivation for administration, consumption, and abuse of legal and illegal drugs." Thus, the main goal of the course will be to gain an understanding of the effects of drugs on behavior. We will also discuss the issue of drug regulation (i.e., laws) as well as the notions of use and abuse. The attitude taken will be to provide accurate unbiased information about the use and effects of drugs, rather than to make value judgments as to whether drugs are good or bad.

These days, educational institutions talk about Learning Outcomes which are descriptions of what students should be able to know and do following a particular course or program. Thus, some specific learning outcomes for this course will be for you to be able to:

  1. Compare and contrast the different catagories of drugs and the effects they have on behavior.
  2. Explain how psychoactive drugs affect the nervous system.
  3. Define the difference between use and abuse of drugs.
Book cover

The required text (available in the college bookstore) is: Hanson, G. R., Venturelli, P. J., & Fleckenstein, A. E. (2018). Drugs and Society (13-th ed.). Sudbury, MA: Jones & Bartlett. I may also provide a few relevant articles over the semester via email.

According to the university Attendance Policy, you are to "Attend all your classes regularly". While I do not formally take attendance, it is unlikely that you will do well in the course if your attendance is poor. There are at least two reasons for this. The first is due to the fact that the exams include some material only presented during class sessions. Second, I believe that in class discussion of the material is necessary to gain the level of understanding of the material required.

If you miss a class, it will be to your benefit to find out what occurred during that class from a classmate. Keep in mind that since this class meets once a week, missing a class is really missing a week of class. Most of the text for multimedia slides used in lecture are available below in a format that can be read by most word processors. I recommend bringing these to class (in whatever format you find most useful).

1-st Quarter 2-nd Quarter 3-rd Quarter 4-th Quarter
OTC Drugs
Psychiatric Drugs


What I expect from you:

  1. To agree to study this syllabus carefully (ASAP) & refer to it when questions arise about the class.
  2. To acknowledge that effort, by itself, is not enough to justify a worthy grade. In other words, you are graded primarily on the merit of your performance in the class rather than the amount of effort you put into the class.
  3. To acknowledge that previous academic preparation (e.g., biology, math, etc.) matters. Those who are better prepared are likely to do better in the class.
  4. To attend class & give your full attention to the material, as well as conduct yourself in an appropriate manner (e.g., not having personal conversations during lectures or performing other activities that disrupt the class). As noted earlier, I believe class discussion to be a necessary ingredient for the class to accomplish its goals. Thus, if class participation is not forthcoming, I will call on people at random.
  5. To meet the obligations of the course (e.g., reading, assignments, etc.) and not make excuses for your failure to do so.
  6. To treat everyone in class, including the professor, with respect.
  7. To check your university email account several times each week. I will make announcements via this medium.
  8. To not plagiarize or otherwise steal the work of others.
  9. To understand & adhere to your Rights & Responsibilities as a UWSP student.
  10. To turn off or silence cell phones when in class.

What you can expect from me:

  1. To manage the class in a professional manner. This may include educating you in appropriate classroom behavior. While I am quite tolerant of inattentiveness, I am not at all tolerant of disruptive behaviors.
  2. To prepare carefully for each class & begin & end it on time.
  3. To try to learn your name (if class size permits) & to recognize your individuality & treat you with respect, as well as to be honest with you. I apologize in advance for being bad with remembering names.
  4. To treat all students equally. Thus, I will not discriminate on the basis of your identity, appearance, gender, race, creed, color, viewpoints, disability, whether I like you or not, or anything else.
  5. To have 3 office hours each week during which you are welcome to stop by (no appointment necessary). See contact info for more detail.
  6. To give grades primarily based on the quality of your work.
  7. To return your grades quickly (with your permission) & with detailed feedback. For example, I will provide you with an overall estimate of your grade prior to the 10th week of the semester drop deadline. In addition, students wishing to go over their exams with me individually, are welcome to come by during my office hours.
  8. To be honest about what I know. If I do not know something, I will say so (and then I will probably look it up).
  9. To treat any plagiarism, cheating, or other violations of academic integrity harshly.
  10. To silence my cell phone when in class.


My office is located in Science B-341. I will have office hours Tuesdays 2-3:00 p.m., Wednesdays 1-2:00 p.m., and Thursdays 2:30-3:30 p.m. (or you can arrange to see me by appointment at some other mutually convenient time). Note that my office hours do NOT require an appointment. If my door is closed, please knock. You can see a visual of my schedule here. You can reach me at 346-3961 (and please leave a message if I am not available) or through electronic mail at mplonsky@uwsp.edu. Do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions.

When sending me an email, please following the directions below carefully. It will ensure a more timely and relevant response from me. I typically reply within 1-2 business days.
  1. Use the “Subject:” line. It should summarize the point of the email in a couple of words.
  2. Tell me which class is involved. I typically teach 3 classes & have about 100-250 students each semester.
  3. Write professionally. In other words, use whole words and sentences, unlike texting where you might use the minimal amount of letters you can get away with. A worthy website regarding this issue is Netiquette by C. Pirillo.

Tentative Class Schedule

Barring illness on my part or other such unforeseen emergencies, we will stick with this schedule. If changes are necessary they will be announced in class and via email.

1 9/6 Orientation
Chapter 1
2 9/13 Introduction Chapter 2
3 9/20 Placebos pps. 538-570, 582-588.
4 9/27 Basic Pharmacology Chapter 5 
  9/27 Review & EXAM 1
5 10/4 Basic Biopsychology Chapter 4
6 10/11 Ergotropics & Nootropics
pps. 150-153, 521-537.
    Sedatives Chapter 6 (except pps. 188-191).
7 10/18 Inhalants Chapter 14
8 10/25 Alcohol Chapter 7 & 8
  10/25 Review & EXAM 2
9 11/1 Analgesics
Chapter 9, pps. 480-482.
    Stimulants Chapter 10
10 11/8 Tobacco Chapter 11
11 11/15 OTC Drugs
Chapter 15
12 11/22 Psychiatric Drugs pps. 188-191.
  11/22 Review & EXAM 3
  11/23-24 -- Thanksgiving Break --
13 11/29 Hallucinogens Chapter 12
14 12/6 Marijuana Chapter 13
15 12/13 Laws Chapter 3
  12/22-Fr EXAM 4 (12:30-1:30 p.m.).
NOTE: The exam is only 1 hour, rather than from
12:30-2:30 p.m. as indicated in the timetable.

Note that when exams are given, they occur during the latter half of the 2.5 hour class. This results in my covering new material on the day of an exam. While I would rather not have to do this, the once a week nature of the class makes it necessary. I have considered and tried alternatives over the years, but have found this to be the most effective way to teach the class. I hope you find it easy to adjust to. An advantage is that we can typically have a brief review session just prior to the exam.

UWSP Psychology Dept. Dr. P's Place Comments? mplonsky@uwsp.edu.