Not available in 2020/21
SP472      Half Unit
Illegal Drugs and Their Control: Theory, Policy and Practice

This information is for the 2020/21 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Michael Shiner OLD.2.34


This course is available on the LLM (extended part-time), LLM (full-time), MSc in Criminal Justice Policy, MSc in International Social and Public Policy, MSc in International Social and Public Policy (Development), MSc in International Social and Public Policy (Migration), MSc in International Social and Public Policy (Non-Governmental Organisations), MSc in International Social and Public Policy (Research) and MSc in Regulation. This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.

All Social Policy Courses are ‘Controlled Access’. Please see the link below for further details on the allocation process.


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.


15 hours of lectures, 15 hours of lectures and 1 hour and 30 minutes of workshops in the LT.

An essay writing skills workshop is run during reading week.

Formative coursework

Students will be expected to submit a formative essay (2,000 words) upon which they will recieve feedback.

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.

Important information in response to COVID-19

Please note that during 2020/21 academic year some variation to teaching and learning activities may be required to respond to changes in public health advice and/or to account for the situation of students in attendance on campus and those studying online during the early part of the academic year. For assessment, this may involve changes to mode of delivery and/or the format or weighting of assessments. Changes will only be made if required and students will be notified about any changes to teaching or assessment plans at the earliest opportunity.

Key facts

Department: Social Policy

Total students 2019/20: 27

Average class size 2019/20: 14

Controlled access 2019/20: Yes

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

  • Self-management
  • Team working
  • Problem solving
  • Application of information skills
  • Commercial awareness
  • Specialist skills