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Unit information: Advanced Drug Use and Addiction in 2019/20

Please note: Due to alternative arrangements for teaching and assessment in place from 18 March 2020 to mitigate against the restrictions in place due to COVID-19, information shown for 2019/20 may not always be accurate.

Please note: you are viewing unit and programme information for a past academic year. Please see the current academic year for up to date information.

Unit name Advanced Drug Use and Addiction
Unit code PSYCM0072
Credit points 20
Level of study M/7
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. Appraise the field of Drug use and Addiction by relating biological and cognitive perspectives to the psychology of drug use and addiction
  2. Analyse the complexity of the addiction phenotype, including variation in this phenotype across drugs and people.
  3. Assess current theoretical models of addiction and characterise the underlying mechanisms of addictive behaviour.
  4. Evaluate different approaches to treating addiction and illustrate how different treatment approaches may align with current models of addiction.
  5. Distinguish the reasons for drug use and justify the potential positive, as well as negative, consequences of drug use.
  6. Assess the societal importance of contemporary issues in drug use and addiction.
  7. Apply evidence and theory to debate the ‘Big Questions’ in the field of Drug Use and Addiction.
  8. Evaluate cross-cultural differences in Drug use and Addiction and incorporate these differences into the ILOs above.

Teaching details

Weekly lectures and seminars.

Assessment Details

1 x 2000 word essay (30%)

1 x 2 hour written exam (70%)

Reading and References

Journal articles will be made available via Blackboard.