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Unit information: Drug Use and Addiction in 2018/19

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Unit name Drug Use and Addiction
Unit code PSYC30020
Credit points 20
Level of study H/6
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1A (weeks 1 - 6)
Unit director Dr. Maynard
Open unit status Not open




School/department School of Psychological Science
Faculty Faculty of Life Sciences


This unit provides a comprehensive introduction to drug use and the problem of addiction. It provides a framework for further independent study of the key issues and current research. A key aim of this unit is to understand the process of addiction from initiation of drug use through to treatment of addiction and relapse. It will address psychological, biological and social factors that influence this process and explore how and why individuals differ in their propensity to take drugs and develop addiction. The unit will introduce current theories of addiction and approaches to treatment, including current research and theory on behaviour change. The pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic profiles of different classes of drugs of abuse will be considered in order to understand how and why patterns of drug use differ and why drugs have different abuse liabilities and associated harms. The unit also present and discuss several critical issues in drug use and addiction, including drug-related policy (such as drug legalisation and harms classification) and social stigma. A primary learning outcome of this unit is for students to develop a deeper understanding of the complexity of drug use and addiction from both a biological and social perspective, and the challenges of developing effective treatment strategies.

Intended learning outcomes

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

  1. Illustrate the field of drug use and addiction by assessing biological and cognitive perspectives on the psychology of drug use and addiction
  2. Analyse contemporary issues and apply different methodological approaches that enhance the study of drug use and addiction
  3. Distinguish key factors that influence drug uptake and relate the transition to addiction to biological and cognitive changes
  4. Compare different treatment approaches to addiction
  5. Summarise the clinical, social and political aspects of drug use to illustrate broader complexity and challenges of drug use and addiction

Teaching details

Weekly lectures and seminars.

Assessment Details

1 x 1600 word essay (30%)

1 x 2 hour written exam (70%)

Reading and References

Journal articles will be made available via Blackboard.