SA4L6      Half Unit
Illegal Drugs and Their Control: Theory, Policy and Practice

This information is for the 2016/17 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Michael Shiner OLD2.49


This course is available on the MSc in Criminal Justice Policy, MSc in Regulation, MSc in Social Policy (European and Comparative Social Policy), MSc in Social Policy (Research), MSc in Social Policy (Social Policy and Planning) and Master of Laws. This course is available as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.

If this course is oversubscribed places will be allocated firstly to MSc Criminal Justice Policy students, then other Social Policy students and then students from other departments on a first come first served basis.


Some familiarity with criminology or sociology is preferable but not essential

Course content

This multi-disciplinary course draws on sociology, psychology, criminology and law to examine the place and meaning of illegal drug use in late modern societies and associated policy responses. It begins by considering drug use and subcultural formations; the ‘normalisation’ of drug use; drug tourism; the role of addiction; and the organisation of drug markets. It then goes onto consider the making of drugs policy; drugs, policing and the law; treatment and harm reduction; drugs as a development and human rights issue; decriminalisation and alternatives to prohibition.


10 x 1.5 hours of lectures and 10 x 1.5 hours of seminars in the MT.

Formative coursework

Students will be expected to submit a formative essay (2,000 words), which is to be handed in by the end of week eight of MT.

Indicative reading

Aldridge, J., Measham, F., and Williams, L. (2011) Illegal Leisure Revisited: Changing Patterns of Alcohol and Drug Use in Adolescents and Young Adults, London: Routledge.

Bean, P. (2008) Drugs and Crime, Cullompton: Willan.

R. Hughes, R. Lart., and P. Higate (2006) Drugs: Policy and Politics, Maidenhead: Open University press.

Klein, A. (2008) Drugs and the World, London: Reaktion.

MacCoun, R.J., and Reuter, P. (2001) Drug War Heresies: Learning from Other Vices, Times and Places, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Shiner, M. (2009) 'Drug Use and Social Change: The Distortion of History, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

M. Simpson, T. Shildrick and R. MacDonald (2007) Drugs in Britain: Supply, Consumption and Control, Basingstoke: Palgrave MacMillan.

Stevens, A. (2011) Drugs Crime and Public Health: The Political Economy of Drug Policy, London: Routledge.


Essay (100%, 3000 words) in the LT.

to be handed in during the first week of the LT.

Student performance results

(2013/14 - 2014/15 combined)

Classification % of students
Distinction 12.2
Merit 46.9
Pass 40.8
Fail 0

Key facts

Department: Social Policy

Total students 2015/16: Unavailable

Average class size 2015/16: Unavailable

Controlled access 2015/16: No

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Course survey results

(2013/14 - 2014/15 combined)

1 = "best" score, 5 = "worst" score

The scores below are average responses.

Response rate: 84%



Reading list (Q2.1)


Materials (Q2.3)


Course satisfied (Q2.4)


Lectures (Q2.5)


Integration (Q2.6)


Contact (Q2.7)


Feedback (Q2.8)


Recommend (Q2.9)