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Unit information: Drugs and Society in 2020/21

Unit name Drugs and Society
Unit code SPOL30011
Credit points 20
Level of study H/6
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. Lart
Open unit status Not open




School/department School for Policy Studies
Faculty Faculty of Social Sciences and Law


The unit examines the ways in which societies respond to psychoactive substance use, distinguishing between categories of substance and creating systems of control. A strong policy focus will trace the development of British drugs policy over the last century, locate this within the context of international drug control policies and examine selected other societies' responses and policies. Issues particularly relating to research in the drugs field will also be addressed.

The unit aims to:

  1. provide students with a broad social, historical and theoretical framework for understanding drug use
  2. enable students to understand and critically assess the range of social responses to drug use
  3. show students the significance of drug use for contemporary social policy.

Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of this unit, the student will be able to:

  • describe and analyse how illicit drug use has been defined and responded to in British society and in selected other societies
  • use a range of social theory to analyse policy responses to drug use
  • describe and critically assess the range of research methods used in the drugs field
  • critically assess arguments about the legalisation, decriminalisation and prohibition of drug use

Teaching details

Teaching will be delivered through blended leaning by a combination of asynchronous and synchronous sessions. Asynchronous delivery will include narraged power points providing an overview and framework for hte topics delivered each week, and structured exercises to be undertaken either individually or in pairs or groups. Synchronous teaching will be in seminar format and will include disucssion and student presentations from prepared work.

Assessment Details

Critical reading (1000 words) (25%)

Essay (2000 words) (75%)

Reading and References

  • Berridge, V (2013) Demons: Our changing attitudes to alcohol, tobacco and drugs Oxford: Oxford University Press
  • Seddon, T (2010) A history of drugs: drugs and freedom in the liberal age London: Routledge
  • Stevens, A (2011) Drugs, Crime and Public Health London: Routledge
  • Herring, J., Regan, C., Weinberg, D and Withington, P (eds) (2013) Intoxication and Society London: Palgrave MacMillan
  • Hunt, G., Milhet, M and Bergeron, H (2011) Drugs and culture: Knowledge, consumption and policy Farnham: Ashgate
  • Bewlay-Taylor, D. R. (2012) International Drug Control: Consensus Fractured Cambridge: Cambridge University Press