What Really Happens When You Pop That Pill?

Erika Williams, Biomedical Science, Phillip O. Berry Academy of Technology

Curriculum Unit (pdf)


This Curriculum Unit will focus on the effects of drugs on the body. The target audience is high school students. I want students to understand exactly what happens in their body when they take a painkiller, or use steroids, or something like Adderall to stay up all night studying. We will focus on the purpose of the drug, how the body metabolizes the drug, and adverse effects. Then we will study some of the strongest opioids, such as Fentanyl and OxyContin, to discover their mechanisms of action, side effects, addiction tendencies and what happens when they are abused. This unit will help students understand the fundamentals of chemistry, anatomy and physiology, metabolism, and pharmacokinetics. These are advanced topics for high school students so completion of the courses of Biology, Chemistry, are required and Anatomy and Physiology and/or PLTW Human Body Systems is strongly recommended. In addition to coursework and assessments, students will perform labs to demonstrate metabolism of drugs and the adverse effects. Students will hopefully come away with a better understanding of how drugs work so that they can make informed decisions.