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Drugs: Prevalence, Policy & Practice - SPY00012H

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  • Department: Social Policy and Social Work
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Geoff Page
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: H
  • Academic year of delivery: 2024-25

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching period
A Semester 1 2024-25

Module aims

Illicit drug use is a key contemporary concern both for our country and globally. Opinions about the dangers of illicit drug use vary as widely as the drugs which are used - but few are in doubt that the number of people using drugs has increased hugely over the last twenty years and the variety of substances used is increasing almost on a daily basis. Drugs are also of course always a political ‘hot potato’ – particularly the link between drugs and crime - and the laws and policies related to illicit drug use are never without controversy. This course is designed to provide you with a critical understanding of contemporary drug misuse and its impact; treatment and prevention services; and related international and national laws and policies.

This module aims to develop in students:

  • A foundational knowledge and understanding of the main illicit drugs and their effects

  • A detailed knowledge of the national and international legal and policy frameworks relating to drug misuse

  • A clear understanding of the reasons why individuals might use illicit substances and the potential health and social costs of that use

  • An appreciation of the consequences of illicit drug use for families and communities

  • An awareness of the key medical and criminal justice-related responses to drug problems.

Module learning outcomes

By the end of this module, you will be able to:

  • Critically engage with international and national drug policy debates comparing and contrasting the approaches taken in the UK to those in other countries and make reasoned and evidenced assessments as to which approaches work most effectively.

  • Interrogate the causes of drug use applying structural and individual explanations and learn to appreciate the need for imagination and flexibility in the corresponding policy and practice solutions.

  • Critically assess sources of competing and countervailing qualitative and quantitative evidence around theory, policy and practice and develop rigorous and well-evidenced arguments as to the strength of that evidence.

  • Critically assess sources of competing and countervailing evidence around competing approaches to problematic drug use particularly in terms of harm reduction and recovery and the political, social and clinical influences on policy and practice stemming from these diverse perspectives.

  • See beyond simplistic paradigms relating to drug policy and practice and you will develop your own assessment of what constitutes best practice - including practices of criminal justice agents and institutions in their treatment of drug users.


Task Length % of module mark
N/A 100

Special assessment rules



Task Length % of module mark
N/A 100

Module feedback

Feedback will be given in accordance with the University Policy on feedback in the Guide to Assessment as well as in line with the School policy.

Indicative reading

Babor, T et al (2010) Drug Policy and the Public Good Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Black, C, Dame (2020) Independent Review of Drugs. London: Home Office and Department of Health and Social Care

Bowser, B; Word, C and Seddon, T (2014) Understanding drug use and abuse: a global perspective. Basingstoke: Palgrave MacMillan.

Coomber, R; McElrath, K and Measham, F (2013) Key concepts in drugs and society. London: Sage.

Gossop, M (2007) Living with Drugs. Aldershot: Ashgate

Neale, J; Nettleton, S and Pickering, L (2012) The Everyday Lives of Recovering Heroin Users. London:RSA

Ritter, A (2022) Drug Policy London: Routledge

The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.