Substance Use in the Contemporary World MED5632

  • Academic Session: 2023-24
  • School: School of Health and Wellbeing
  • Credits: 10
  • Level: Level 5 (SCQF level 11)
  • Typically Offered: Either Semester 1 or Semester 2
  • Available to Visiting Students: No
  • Taught Wholly by Distance Learning: Yes

Short Description

Over the course of eleven weeks, this introductory, postgraduate level course guides you through how alcohol and drug use is understood. We begin our journey by unpacking terminology surrounding substance use, before moving on to consider different theoretical perspectives on addiction and recovery - including why people use different substances, their harms, and how people stop. We then take you through some different case studies to help you navigate the complex landscape - examples may include the legalisation debate; recovery and harm reduction; the rise (and fall?) of new psychoactive substances; and on the lasting and sustained impact substance use can have on others. We end the course by exploring contrasting ways to consider substance use and its causes and effects in order to help you evaluate, develop, and inspire your professional and personal development.


Online content delivered as an eleven-week course.

Requirements of Entry

At least a second-class Honours degree in a relevant discipline (e.g. psychology, sociology, anthropology, history, medicine, nursing, occupational therapy, law, public health or public policy) from a UK university or an overseas qualification of an equivalent standard. A registerable health-care professional qualification and/or level 4 or above social care qualification will also be acceptable.

Excluded Courses





Assessment 1 [40%]: 

■ Task: Critical appraisal of a set article (from a list) guided by questions.

■ Submission Format: Written; max 800w.

■ Due: middle of course

■ Assessed ILOs: 1, 2.


Assessment 1 [60%]: 

■ Task: Comparison of two theoretical positions in relation to a current issue with a short personal reflection.

■ Submission Format: Choice of blog (max 1000w); podcast (audio with transcript; 8-10 minutes); audio with slides and transcript (8-10 minutes). Must also respond to set reflective question.

■ Due: end of course

■ Assessed ILOs: 1, 2, 3.

Course Aims

This course aims to provide students with an introduction to understanding theoretical perspectives and key debates about substance use.

Intended Learning Outcomes of Course

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

1. Critically appraise theoretical approaches of understanding substance use.

2. Synthesise evidence and apply personal disciplinary learning to critically analyse and interrogate what is meant by problem substance use in a contemporary context.

3. Apply learning obtained throughout the course to critically reflect on personal values towards and/or professional practice around substance use and recovery.

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.