New High School Neuroscience Curriculum

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A neuroscience curriculum for high school students has found a home on The Franklin Institute’s new website dedicated to the brain. Educators looking to generate excitement about brain science with an eye towards the field’s societal implications can now access the expertly reviewed—and free—resource.

The curriculum, developed jointly by the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Neuroscience & Society and The Franklin Institute, is a cohesive blueprint of instructional material designed around teenagers’ everyday decisions as they enter adulthood. The website describes the units as roughly two-week-long sections that can be offered as a semester-long course or as stand-alone components that can be incorporated into existing courses. Continue reading

From the Archives: Treating Opioid Addiction

It is estimated that between 26.4 million and 36 million people abuse opioids worldwide; the US government estimates that 2.1 million people in the United States have substance use disorders related to prescription opioid pain relievers in 2012 and another 467,000 are addicted to heroin. Consequences include a spike in the number of unintentional overdose deaths from prescription pain relievers (including the recent death of the musician Prince), and growing evidence to suggest a relationship between increased non-medical use of opioid analgesics and heroin abuse in the US.

OBrien_Charles_featWhat can we do to help? This spring, Charles O’Brien and colleagues reported results of the latest in a series of studies testing the drug naltrexone as a preventive against opioid relapse in people greatly at risk for relapse: formerly addicted convicts. “This U.S. multisite, open-label, randomized effectiveness trial showed that among adult offenders who had a history of opioid dependence, the rate of relapse was lower among participants assigned to extended-release naltrexone than among those assigned to usual treatment,” they write.

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National Recovery Month: Drug and Alcohol Addiction

OBrien_Charles_featThe month of September is dedicated to raising awareness about recovery from drug and alcohol addiction. This month, we interviewed Dana Alliance member Charles O’Brien, M.D., Ph.D., who founded the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Addiction Treatment. For more than thirty years, O’Brien has worked to improve addiction treatment and has made many breakthroughs regarding the clinical aspects of addiction and the neurobiology of relapse.

In your opinion, what is the most common misconception about drug and alcohol addiction?

Most physicians learn very little about addictive disorders in medical school or residency. Rather than being considered a disease of the brain, most see it as bad behavior. They don’t know that there are FDA approved medications and that patients do respond to treatment, even though “cures” are rare.

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Drug Addiction and Incarceration

Last month, at a Capitol Hill briefing in Washington, D.C., experts gathered to address the surge in opioid drug abuse and fatal overdoses among people of all demographics within the United States. According to a 2010 study done by the Centers for Disease Control, prescription opioids accounted for 60% of overdose deaths, a statistic that has doubled in just over ten years. While there is work being done by federal and state agencies to deter future abuse of prescription painkillers, speakers of the event focused particularly on those who are imprisoned as a result of their addiction.

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High School Bioethics Project Launches New Website

Bioethics is a growing sphere in the science community and Arthur Caplan, Ph.D., and his colleagues at the High School Bioethics Project (HSBP) at the University of Pennsylvania have been working to bring high school students into the mix.  Since 2001, they’ve developed curriculums, web resources, and outreach programs to increase conversations about bioethics in high school classrooms. In 2007, the Dana Foundation awarded Caplan a three-year grant to develop classroom materials as part of HSBP, something he spoke about with us in a 2010 interview.

In HSBP’s efforts to connect to a wider group, today it launched a newly designed website with topical briefs, related news coverage, and a calendar of upcoming events (none posted as of today, though). The briefs seem to be the main attraction, addressing areas such a bioethics and sports, clinical ethics, and public health ethics, and are developed for teachers to help supplement their lessons.

–Ann L. Whitman

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