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The Brain & the Actions of Cocaine, Opioids, and Marijuana

Background Information for the Presenter


The objective of the teaching packet is to inform students (high school) how 3 drugs of abuse (cocaine, opiates, marijuana) actually work in the brain. The packet is arranged in 3 sections. The first section introduces the brain and presents some basic neurobiology, the second introduces the reward pathway and the third presents the mechanism of action of each drug and how each affects the reward system.

Before Entering the Classroom

  • Arrange to talk with the teacher (by telephone or in person).
  • Obtain information on the age group and extent of biology background.
  • Discuss the subjects that you will present to the class.
  • If possible, meet with the teacher & review the presentation; provide teacher with some background material if requested.
  • Solicit advice from the teacher about teaching strategies (e.g. what to do if some students are disruptive or not listening).
  • Read the narrative script and practice the presentation - this is different from a scientific seminar to peers!

Once in the Classroom

  • Introduce yourself to the class.
  • Talk briefly about your path to your current job.
  • Describe what you do (simply).
  • Indicate the object of your presentation.
  • Invite questions during your presentation.
  • If the opportunity arises, ask questions of the students.
  • Be prepared to define any words you use.

General Instructions

  • The presentation should take approximately 30-40 minutes (without questions); it can be presented in 2 class sessions if so desired.
  • Use the narrative text as a guide, it need not be repeated word-for-word.

This page was last updated November 2019

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Cite this article

NIDA. (2019, November 19). The Brain & the Actions of Cocaine, Opioids, and Marijuana. Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/brain-actions-cocaine-opioids-marijuana

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