Engaging ideas, transforming minds
Engaging ideas, transforming minds

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392 pages
6 x 9 inches
November 2019
Print ISBN: 9781773381602


The second edition of the formerly titled Just Say Know: A Counsellor’s Guide to Psychoactive Drugs, this indispensable counselling resource provides a practical understanding of psychoactive drug pharmacology and physiology. Rick Csiernik unpacks the risks and therapeutic applications of the most commonly used and misused drug families, including depressants, stimulants, hallucinogens, and psychotherapeutics. This new edition features a wide range of updated research and content addressing the recent rise of opioid, fentanyl, cannabis, novel psychoactive substances, and antipsychotic medication use, as well as the impacts of drug use on sleep and mental health. Two new appendixes are featured summarizing the effects of drugs on pregnancy and interactions drugs may have with certain brain chemicals.

The Essential Guide to Psychoactive Drugs in Canada is the perfect addition to any addiction or mental health-related course. User-friendly and highly readable, this resource serves as a guide for service providers to deliver evidence-based care. This text is crucial for counsellors, therapists, instructors, and students looking to acquire an in-depth practical understanding of drug use, medication, and addiction in disciplines such as social work, sociology, pharmacology, health studies, nursing, psychology, and addiction studies.


Table of Contents


Chapter 1 Pharmacological Principles

1.1 Understanding Addiction
1.2 Psychoactive Drug Groups
1.3 The Costs of Psychoactive Drug Use
1.4 The Nervous System
1.5 Pharmacokinetics
1.6 Pharmacodynamics
1.7 Sleeping and Dreaming

Chapter 2 Depressants

2.1 Sedative-Hypnotics
2.2 Antihistamines
2.3 Inhalants, Solvents, and Anaesthetic Gases
2.4 Alcohol
2.5 Opioids

Chapter 3 Stimulants

3.1 Cocaine
3.2 Amphetamine and Methamphetamine
3.3 Methylphenidate (Ritalin and Concerta)
3.4 Anorexiants
3.5 Decongestants
3.6 Khat (Qat)
3.7 Methylendioxypyrovalerone (Bath Salts)
3.8 Betel/Areca Nut
3.9 Nicotine
3.10 Caffeine

Chapter 4 Hallucinogens

4.1 Hallucinogens
4.2 LSD-Like Hallucinogens: Indolealkylamine
4.3 Mescaline-Like Hallucinogens: Phenylethylamines
4.4 Dissociative Anaesthetics: Arylcycloalkylamines
4.5 Cannabis
4.6 Novel Psychoactive Substances

Chapter 5 Psychotherapeutic Agents

5.1 Antidepressants
5.2 Antipsychotics
5.3 Mood Stabilizers

Appendix A: Which Neurotransmitters Does a Psychoactive Drug Alter?

Appendix B: Summary of Effects of Psychoactive Drug Consumption During Pregnancy



Rick Csiernik

Rick Csiernik is a Professor of Social Work at King’s College, University of Western Ontario. Csiernik has authored and edited several popular Canadian Scholars' titles including: Just Say Know: A Counsellor's Guide to Psychoactive Drugs (2014), Workplace Wellness (2014); Responding to the Oppression of Addiction (co-edited with William S. Rowe, 2017); Substance Use and Abuse (2016); The Drug Paradox (with Tara Bruno, 2018), and Homelessness, Housing, and Mental Health (co-edited with Cheryl Forchuk and Elsabeth Jensen, 2011). The author of more than 100 journal articles, his research interests include addiction, employee assistance programming and workplace wellness, social work education, and program evaluation. Rick has been recipient of both the King’s University College Award for Excellence in Teaching and the McMaster University Instructor Appreciation Award.

Substance Use and Abuse, The Drug Paradox, Homelessness, Housing, and Mental Health, Just Say Know, Responding to the Oppression of Addiction, 2nd Edition, Substance Use and Abuse, Second Edition, Wellness and Work, Workplace Wellness, Responding to the Oppression of Addiction, Third Edition, The Essential Guide to Psychoactive Drugs in Canada, Second Edition, Poverty, Mental Health, and Social Inclusion, Substance Use and Misuse, Third Edition


“Presented in a way that is both holistic and accessible, this text debunks the mysteries behind the power of substance misuse and addiction by helping us understand the brain and how the introduction of drugs to this closed system may create havoc in the lives of the users… Organized in efficient chapters with quizzes, learning activities, and case studies, the text allows both learners and experienced practitioners the chance for self-reflection and, thus, creates teachable moments for students and clients. This is a must-have text on your resource shelf. The world of drugs is changing rapidly, so it behooves active practitioners, teachers, and students to ensure their own currency, readiness, and ability to meet the challenges of this field. Rick Csiernik’s newest text certainly will help us do just that.”

The Essential Guide to Psychoactive Drugs in Canada is an invaluable resource. Already adopted in several of my social work courses, I also carried the first edition of this text with me to every social work practice class, as most students only receive a rudimentary education in psychoactive drugs and their effects, but the topic touches almost every case we discuss in some way. The socio-historical-political context provided is a unique feature not included in most drug reference manuals. Like all of Csiernik’s work, it’s a brilliant teaching tool.”

Instructor Resources

    Instructor supplements for the second edition of The Essential Guide to Psychoactive Drugs include:
  • Test bank that includes multiple choice, true or false, short answers and essay suggestions
  • Lecture guides
  • PowerPoint slides for each chapter

Student Resources

General Student Resource - Download

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