BASS Sociology and Criminology

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Drugs and Society

Course unit fact file
Unit code CRIM30601
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 3
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


In recent decades, drug use has increasingly garnered official and media attention. This unit will develop a multi-disciplinary understanding of drugs in the UK and elsewhere by enabling students to apply sociological, criminological, historical, psychological and cultural perspectives to the study of drug use, and policy responses to this 'social problem'. We seek to understand why people take and sell drugs, how drug use is understood within societies, and how societies respond. We will contrast the use of illegal drugs with legal substances like alcohol.

Indicative content: (1) Definitions, control and moral panic; (2) Trends in substance use; (3) Changing trends 1; (4) Changing trends 2; (5) Non-addictive substance use; (6) Addiction, treatment and recovery; (7) Drugs & crime: local to global; (8) The evolution of drug markets; (9) The internet and drugs; (10) Drug futures: alternatives to prohibition?


This course unit aims to (1) introduce students to a range of perspectives that help us understand drug use, policy and markets, (2) provide students with an appreciation of the different forms of legal and illegal drug use, (3) give students an understanding of how drug policies have developed in response to drug use.

Learning outcomes

On successful completion of this module students will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of: (1) different kinds of drug use, trends and patterns, and the evolution of drug markets; (2) policy approaches taken in the UK and elsewhere, and the role of ideology in the production of media and official drugs discourses; (3) key debates in the academic literature relating to drugs as a 'social problem'.


Teaching and learning methods

Teaching and learning across course units consists of: (1) preparatory work to be completed prior to teaching sessions, including readings, pre-recorded subject material and online activities; (2) a weekly whole-class lecture or workshop; (3) a tutorial; and (4) one-to-one support via subject specific office hours.

Knowledge and understanding

- Develop nuanced research and theory-informed understanding of drugs, drug use, drug markets and drug policy in the UK and elsewhere.

Intellectual skills

- Research, analyse and communicate in an informed and critical way, theoretical explanations and empirical and policy findings concerning drugs, drug use, drugs markets and drug policy.

Practical skills

- Discuss, illustrate, debate and evaluate key points/perspectives and communicate these in a clear and effective way.

Transferable skills and personal qualities

- Development of group discussion/argumentation skills

- Development of essay writing skills

Employability skills

(i) analyse, critique and (re-)formulate a problem or issue; (ii) rapidly and thoroughly review/rate argument and evidence from targeted bibliographic searches; (iii) plan, structure and present arguments in a variety of written formats and to a strict word limit, (iv) express ideas verbally and organise work effectively in small teams for a variety of written and oral tasks; (v) obtain, manipulate and (re-)present different forms of data; (vi) manage time effectively; (vii) reflect on and improve performance through feedback.

Assessment methods

Method Weight
Oral assessment/presentation 70%
Set exercise 30%

Feedback methods

Formative feedback (both individual and collective) will be given on (1) tasks and contribution in class, (2) developing plans of assessments. Detailed summative feedback will be given on the submitted assessment via Blackboard (Grademark).

This unit is assessed by MCQ (30%) and Oral Exam (70%).

Recommended reading

Barton, A (2011) Illicit Drugs: Use and Control. Abingdon: Routledge.

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 20
Tutorials 10
Independent study hours
Independent study 70

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Lisa Williams Unit coordinator
William Floodgate Unit coordinator

Additional notes

Across their course units each semester, full-time students are expected to devote a ‘working week’ of around 30-35 hours to study. Accordingly each course unit demands around 10-11 hours of study per week consisting of (i) 3 timetabled teacher-led hours, (ii) 7-8 independent study hours devoted to preparation, required and further reading, and note taking.


This course is offered to all students university wide including incoming study abroad students.

Pre-requisites: None.


Please refer to your personalised Criminology timetable    

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