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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Health in Social Science : School of Health in Social Science

Undergraduate Course: Drug Policy and the Public Good (SHSS10011)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Health in Social Science CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 10 (Year 3 Undergraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThe aim of this course is to introduce students to the concept of drug policy, explore how it is enacted both internationally and nationally, and invites critical reflection on policy responses to drug use. It combines perspectives drawn from health studies, law, criminology, social policy, sociology, public health and public policy to explore the interaction between drug use and society, and the role that risk and harm play in the development of a public good approach to drug use.
Course description This course brings together a range of academic disciplines and literature to give students a broad understanding of drug policy, both international and national. While drug use and policy may be discussed as part of other courses, this is the only course that focuses specifically on drug policy, and the impact it has on society today.

Drug policy is becoming increasingly visible as an important component of both health and legal policy. Around the world there are shifts which see drug policy moving to a health matter, and the contradictions that can have in the development and delivery of criminal justice and public health frameworks. The aim of the course will be to explore both criminal justice and public health approaches to drug policy, and will introduce students to the broader concept of a 'public good' approach.

This course will be divided into three blocks:
1. Drug use and Society: this block will look at why people use drugs, and explore the interaction between risk, harm, health and
morality in the development of drug policy. This section will have a sociological and health based focus.
2. Drug policy frameworks: this set of lectures will introduce students to international and national drug policy frameworks,
including regulations and legislation on the production, trafficking, supply, possession and use of illicit substances, and recent
moves towards decriminalization and legalization of drugs. This section will have a legal and public policy focus.
3. Public good approaches: this block will look at public good approaches to drug use, including how this interacts with both
public health and criminal justice approaches to drug use. Within this students will explore new and innovative uses for illicit
drugs in the treatment of depression, trauma and addiction. This section will have a social policy, legal and health based focus.

Students will be expected to attend a weekly lecture and 1 tutorial per week, but there will be a range of online activities to develop and complete in addition to this. Drug use has become an important part of media and entertainment, and we will be looking at films, documentaries and online content to explore the narratives driving drug policy, and develop deeper understandings of how these narratives impact individuals and society.

The assessments will provide several ways in which students can demonstrate their learning outcomes.

With the policy brief students will show that they understand the topic, and will be supported to develop a policy brief that highlights the tensions between public health and criminal justice approaches to drug use.

The group presentation will provide students with the ability to work as a team, discuss how 'wicked problems' are managed in society, and help build confidence in presenting on complex and stigmatized topics.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements No course entry requirements but some knowledge of social policy would be helpful.
Information for Visiting Students
Pre-requisitesNo course entry requirements but some knowledge of social policy would be helpful.
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2023/24, Available to all students (SV1) Quota:  0
Course Start Semester 1
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Lecture Hours 10, Seminar/Tutorial Hours 10, Online Activities 10, Feedback/Feedforward Hours .5, Formative Assessment Hours 0.5, Summative Assessment Hours 1, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 164 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 0 %, Coursework 100 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) 25% Group presentation

75% Policy briefing made up of a 1000 word policy brief, and a 1500 word background research paper
Feedback 1 formative assessment on a proposal for either the group presentation or policy briefing
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Students will demonstrate an understanding of the regulatory frameworks surrounding drug use, both internationally and nationally.
  2. By working with others, and individually students will develop the ability to critically evaluate the different ways in which drug use is managed by governments and institutions such as criminal justice and public health departments.
  3. Students will apply this critical thinking in discussing how drug policy fits within a public good perspective, and be able to link this to other disciplines such as law, health in social science, medicine and policy.
  4. Students will develop a deeper understanding of the underlying reasons for drug use in society, including the role that Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE┬┐s), trauma and poverty have on the development of dependent drug use. This will enhance their ability to review and evaluate health research and policy.
  5. Students will be able to apply knowledge and skills gained from the course to the review and evaluation of health research and policy
Reading List
Babor (2018) Drug Policy and the Public Good. Oxford University Press. Core text for the course.

MacGregor, S. (2017) The Politics of Drugs: Perception, Power and Policies. Palgrave Mcmillan. (open access e-book)

Buxton, J., Margo, G., Burger, L. (2020) The Impact of Global Drug Policy on Women: Shifting the Needle. Emerald Publishing. (open access e-book).

Lancaster. K. (2014) Social construction and the evidence-based drug policy endeavor. IJDP 25, 948-951.
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills This course will provide students with the ability to critically evaluate policy initiatives from a range of disciplines. In doing so it will give them a deeper understanding of the complexity surrounding evidence based health policy, criminal justice policy, and social attitudes to what can be termed 'wicked problems'.

The course will also complement professional and academic learning across the School of Health in Social Science by introducing drug policy as a health issue. This in turn will enhance students' understanding of the complexity surrounding health issues that are also governed by criminal justice interventions - similar to recent Covid restrictions. As a result students will develop the attributes of being creative and critical researchers and thinkers, promoting confidence and courage to expand and fulfill their potential.

Feedback from single lectures that have been delivered on other courses, but utilize this course content, have shown that students are introduced to ideas and material they have not come across before, and often this relates to personal experiences of problem drug use with family or friends. As a result there is an increase in understanding and compassion towards those suffering from drug dependencies, as well a wider acceptance of behavior which may not be desirable, but additionally may not be suitable to criminal interventions. As can be seen from the feedback, this will often give them the passion to engage both locally and globally on this very relevant topic.

Finally, the assessment (both formative and summative) will enhance their learning by providing a space for them to become skilled communicators, and encourage them to be effective and influential contributors both in class and in their future career.
KeywordsDrug policy,health,criminal justice,public good,public health,evidence based policy
Course organiserMs Anna Ross
Course secretaryMiss Morven Sutherland
Tel: (0131 6)51 3972
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