Francesca Burton

INDS B.A.: Medicinal Use of Psychoactive Substances

Picture of Student Francesca Burton

Spring 2024 Capstone

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My INDS Degree

I first heard about INDS during an information session at a campus visit when I was initially touring UMBC. One of the example topics the tour guide mentioned was Neuroscience, and at the time I was very interested in pursuing a Neuroscience degree. I had planned to create a neuroscience degree. During the summer between my freshman and sophomore years, I enrolled in a neuropsychopharmacology course that observed both the beneficial and harmful effects of various illicit substances. Each week we would discuss two to three substances and complete discussion posts based on an article detailing current research related to the potential medicinal benefits of these substances. While enrolled in this course, I began to reflect on the information about these substances that I had received during my adolescent years. I realized that much of the content I had been taught as a young teen had been focused around what happens when the body receives an extremely high dosage of the substances, not when a relatively small dose is consumed. I became frustrated when I reached this conclusion, especially as the summer continued and it became evident that small doses of some of these substances may prove to be very effective forms of treatment for a wide range of mental illnesses. As I came about this realization, I began to reflect on my own experiences with mental illness. I have several friends who have gone through the painstaking process of attempting to receive treatment for mental illnesses such as Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), depression, and Bipolar Disorder. I have seen them struggle to complete their school work as they waited for new medications to take effect, and witnessed the mental toll withdrawal symptoms take when pharmacies have failed to fill their prescriptions on time. Despite the great strides modern medicine has made in the treatment of ailments of the body, there are very few illnesses of the brain with treatments that do more than suppress their symptoms. As I became more aware of this, I became frustrated with the situation and more determined to dedicate myself to combat this difference.

Post Graduation Plans

I hope to be pursuing a PhD in Pharmacology after graduation. My INDS degree is focused on the area of research I am interested in pursuing in my future career, and has been a way for me to pursue coursework that will prepare me for my graduate degree. My work for my degree and my capstone project have also been a good talking point in interviews that have helped me stand apart from my peers during the application process.

Courses In My INDS Degree

Understanding Neurological Function: These courses focus on understanding how information is relayed throughout the body, and the pathways by which cells communicate. Most of the cognitive effects of the substances I intend to study occur via expression of neurotransmitters, so understanding their release and regulation will be essential. *More in depth study of biological and chemical studies is covered under a secondary degree in Biochemistry & Molecular Biology*

(PSYCH 390, PSYCH 375, PSYCH 335, BIOL 307, CHEM 455, PSYC 382)

Psychological Normalities and Abnormalities/ Analyzing the Stigma of Mental Illnesses and Psychedelic Use: These courses focus on understanding the classifications of “normal” and “abnormal” in reference to psychological conditions. There is an additional focus on the identification and classification of various mental illnesses that could be treated using psychedelics.

The courses in this section focus on the current stigma surrounding mental illnesses and drug use, and how one may construct arguments based in scientific reasoning to combat these stigmas. Understanding and addressing these stigmas in my communication to the public and federal agencies within my research will be important in my future career.

(PSYC 285, PSYC 304, PSYC 345, PHIL 248)

Individualized Study: : These courses help me to understand the value of interdisciplinary study and work to teach me how to find aspects of my interest in a variety of disciplines.s. (INDS 330, 335, 399, 410, 430, 480, 490 PSYC 345)