Nicotine Valium Vicodin Marijuana Ecstasy and Alcohol

Next year is the fourth year of my degree, which is part coursework, part research. I recently found out that I’ll be doing the research project in the neuropharmacology lab. At first I was a bit unsure about this, as addiction (the main focus of the neuropharma lab) is not my main area of interest, but then again, I realised it’s all about the brain, which makes it ok in my book (receptors! pathways! downregulation! agonists/antagonists! etc).

The things I’m excited about:

1. Getting a good grasp on brain chemistry and the action of substances of abuse (as well as psychiatric medication).

2. Working in a real lab – with all sorts of instruments and beakers and weird contraptions invented by the people in this centre. And maybe getting to use a mass spectrometer! (What can I say…Abby Sciuto is my geek girl hero.)

3. Being able to wear casual clothes and runners (very different to my job, which has clinical contact!). Shallow, I know, but I like being comfortable.

Exciting! But, at the same time, major changes are afoot in the future of my training/profession, changes that I don’t know a whole lot about yet, but that make me wary. On one hand, there is a (wholly justifiable) push to better regulate the profession, and to require a higher level of qualifications, in line with other countries. On the other, the federal government has recently and dramatically cut the number of sessions available to patients under Medicare (from 18 to 10), which doesn’t comply with evidence-based treatment for a lot of psychological disorders/severity (a good summary here). So on the one hand, lengthier and more stringent training is required, and on the other, you are somewhat thwarted once you finish the training. More changes may be coming up too. Anyway, all I can do is take it one step at a time and hope for the best.

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