Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Website to Use: The New Science of Addiction

When I was student teaching during my senior year, I had to develop a few lessons around addiction. In collaborating with my supervising practitioner, I found out about a fantastic website I have since used in middle school.

The New Science of Addiction: Genetics and The Brain is run by the Genetics Learning Center at the University of Utah. The website is very detailed, containing information on a wide variety of topics relating to addiction. Most of the information is for high school or college aged students, but I find that I can select certain pieces of information to present to my middle school students that they are able to comprehend.

According to the website, "Drug addiction is a chronic disease characterized by changes in the brain which result in a compulsive desire to use a drug. A combination of many factors including genetics, environment, and behavior influence a person's addiction risk, making it an incredibly complicated disease. The new science of addiction considers all of these factors--from biology to family--to unravel the complexities of the addicted brain." By covering all of these factors, the website remains a comprehensive resource on everything relating to addiction.

The website focuses on the following topics:
  • Natural Reward Pathways Exist in The Brain
  • Drugs Alter the Brain's Reward Pathway
  • Genetics Is An Important Factor in Addiction
  • Timing and Circumstances Influence Addiction
  • Challenges and Issues In Addiction
Each section contains interactive activities (e.g. making a neuron, "cerebral commando," "mouse house" party, etc) that present information on varying topics: drugs of abuse, how neurons work, the different parts of the brain, etc. These interactive, visually stimulating activities are great for breaking down concepts that may come across as complex to students. I've used the Drugs of Abuse link when discussing basic information about certain drugs during our ATOD unit, and in the past have also used the Mouse Party link.

Extra information about each topic is also included, and is great for expanding upon basic information you may have already covered. Combining visuals with text explanations, these pages are well worth a look! The one on drug delivery methods has served as a great in-class review during my health classes. 

Please explore this valuable website! I do not go into too much detail about addiction because students will learn more about the topic in high school, but this website allows me to introduce students to this important topic without stepping on the toes of the high school teachers.

As always, please feel free to e-mail me with any questions, comments, or concerns!

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