Addiction in the Modern World ESH4073

  • Academic Session: 2023-24
  • School: School of Social and Political Sciences
  • Credits: 20
  • Level: Level 4 (SCQF level 10)
  • Typically Offered: Either Semester 1 or Semester 2
  • Available to Visiting Students: Yes

Short Description

This course will explore the social and cultural development of discourses on addiction, addictive behaviours and policy responses in a global context from the early 19th century to the present day. The course will also focus on economic issues arising from addiction, such as illegal trade, and the social and economic costs of addressing legal and illicit drug use.


Lecture: one hour per week, Seminar: one hour per week. Please note this course does not run every session. For the current course list please see:

Requirements of Entry

Enrolment in an MA (SocSci) or MA (Arts) Honours Programme or as an international exchange student or student on the Intercalated BSc in Medical Humanities.



One research essay (2 500 words +/- 10% excluding footnotes and bibliography, using secondary literature and primary sources) = 40%

One two-hour exam (2 essay-type answers from 7 questions) = 60%

Main Assessment In: April/May

Are reassessment opportunities available for all summative assessments? Not applicable

Reassessments are normally available for all courses, except those which contribute to the Honours classification. For non Honours courses, students are offered reassessment in all or any of the components of assessment if the satisfactory (threshold) grade for the overall course is not achieved at the first attempt. This is normally grade D3 for undergraduate students and grade C3 for postgraduate students. Exceptionally it may not be possible to offer reassessment of some coursework items, in which case the mark achieved at the first attempt will be counted towards the final course grade. Any such exceptions for this course are described below. 

Course Aims

This course aims to explore the development and impact of addiction in medical, social, cultural and economic terms within a global context from the 19th century to the present day. In doing so, the course aims to encourage reflective learning and critical engagement with appropriate literature and primary research material and to facilitate discussion and dissemination of findings in seminars and coursework.


The course will take a thematic approach across national boundaries, including topics such as the trade and consumption of legal and illegal drugs, advertising and marketing practices, Temperance and medical models of addiction, public health responses, health inequalities and the economic and social cost of addiction. The course will explore changes in what constitutes a legal and illegal drug in different social and political contexts.


While the course will explore economic questions arising from legal and illicit drug use, this will be in the form of patterns and trends, rather than detailed economic analysis or modelling. No prior knowledge of economics is required.

Intended Learning Outcomes of Course

By the end of this course students will be able to:

■ Analyse and critically review a variety of primary sources and secondary literature on legal and illegal drug use from around 1900 to the present day and use this analysis in seminar contributions and coursework

■ Produce sustained arguments in written and oral form on the economic and social issues arising from legal and illegal drug use in the nineteenth and twentieth century in an international context

■ Integrate analysis of the influence of class, gender and race on patterns of, and responses to, legal and illegal drug use in specific geographical locations in written and oral class work.

■ Identify the ways in which medical, public health and governmental bodies have responded to legal and illegal drug use in different national contexts and at an international level in written and oral form


Minimum Requirement for Award of Credits

Students must submit at least 75% by weight of the components (including examinations) of the course's summative assessment.