Illicit Drug Use - SPY00012H

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  • Department: Social Policy and Social Work
  • Module co-ordinator: Ms. Sharon Grace
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: H
  • Academic year of delivery: 2019-20

Module summary

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 that it is therefore an issue that requires detailed examination. Drugs are also of course always a political ‘hot potato’ and the laws and policies related to illicit drug use are never without controversy. This course is designed to provide students with a critical understanding of contemporary drug misuse and its impact; treatment and prevention services; and related international and national laws and policies.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching cycle
A Spring Term 2019-20

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 in 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. You will learn about:

  • the main illicit drugs and their effects
  • detailed knowledge of the national and international legal and policy framework 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, and
  • an awareness of the key medical and criminal justice-related responses to drug problems.

Module learning outcomes

Debates around illicit drug use are politically, emotionally and scientifically influenced and and often controversial. You will be able engage with these ideas being sensitive at all times to other people's perspectives. 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. You will interrogate the causalities 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. You will be able to will critically assess sources of competing and countervailing qualitative and quantitative evidence around theories of causalities and policy and practice and develop rigorous and well-evidenced arguments as to the strength of that evidence.In seminar discussions, You will be able to 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.Your critical engagement will allow you to 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.

Module content

Week 2: Illicit drugs: prevalence and explanation

Workshop: Discussion of module and stories of drug use

Week 3: Exploring vulnerability and drug use

Workshop: Case studies of drug users

Week 4: The impact of drug use on family, community and society

Workshop: The normalisation debate

Week 5: Drug Policy Part 1

Workshop: Comparing different countries’ drug policies

Week 6: Drug Policy Part 2

Workshop: Is decriminalisation the answer?

Week 7: Novel psychoactive substances (legal highs) and new forms of drug use

Workshop: New patterns of intoxication and new drugs of choice?

Week 8: Treatment interventions

Workshop: What should the final outcome of treatment be?

Week 9: Education and harm reduction

Workshop: Developing a new drugs strategy

Week 10: Drug Users and the Criminal Justice System

Workshop: Drug users in the CJS

Assessment

Task Length % of module mark
Essay/coursework
Essay
N/A 100

Special assessment rules

None

Reassessment

Task Length % of module mark
Essay/coursework
Essay
N/A 100

Module feedback

The assessment for this module is a 3500 word essay which should comprise a full examination of a misused drug of your choice in terms of production, usage, effects, impacts, harms, current responses and alternative responses. You are free to give the essay your own title. You have the freedom in your essay to focus on the UK or to be more international in your approach as for some drugs one or other of these options will be more appropriate.

Support will be offered throughout the module to ensure you are well placed to complete the assessment. The week 6 seminar of the Spring term will provide an opportunity to discuss the essay questions. Students can submit essay plans up to two weeks after the end of the Spring term. Support for the assessment is also offered through the Discussion Space which will be available during Weeks 6-10 of the Spring term and over the Easter vacation.

You will receive will receive written prompt feedback using a Marking Matrix within four weeks of the submission of your assessment.

Indicative reading

  • Babor, T et al (2010) Drug Policy and the Public Good Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Gossop, M (2003) Drug Addiction and its Treatment. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Gossop, M (2007) Living with Drugs. Aldershot: Ashgate
  • Keene, J (2010) Understanding Drug Misuse: Model of care and control. Basingstoke: Palgrave MacMillan
  • McIntosh, J and McKeganey, N (2001) Beating the Dragon. Harlow: Pearson
  • Neale, J; Nettleton, S and Pickering, L (2012) The Everyday Lives of Recovering Heroin Users. London:RSA
  • Simpson, M; Shildrick, T and Macdonald, R (2007) Drugs in Britain. Basingstoke: Palgrave
  • Hughes, R; Lart, R and Higate, P (2006) Drugs: Policy and Politics. Buckingham: Open University Press [e-bk].
  • Shiner, M (2009) Drug Use and Social Change: the distortion of history. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.



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.