Substance Use in a Contemporary World Microcredential: Online distance learning

Evaluating Evidence to Make Change 

This course aims to help you understand substance use in the contemporary world. We are seeing the harms caused as a result of substance use rising; for example, drug deaths in Scotland are currently at their highest level since records began in 1996, sitting at 1,339 deaths in 2020 (NRS, 2021a). This figure is approximately a 5% increase on the previous year (2019), and 4.6 times the number in 2000. Half of the deaths of homeless people in Scotland in 2019 were drug related (NRS, 2021b). Scotland’s drug death rate is the worst in Europe and is triple the rate observed in England and Wales. It is anticipated this pattern will continue to rise, with anecdotal evidence stating the drug death rate has increased during the Covid-19 pandemic (McGivern, 2020).

  • Online distance learning
  • Teaching start: January
  • Microcredential: 10 weeks
    Time commitment: 8-10 hours per week
    Course cost: £799

Why this course

Substance Use in a Contemporary World video

By the end of this course, you’ll be able to critically appraise some of the theoretical approaches to understanding substance use. You’ll be able to apply this learning to unpack and explore some of the current issues around drug and/or alcohol use, applicable to your life, such as where you live and work.

In addition to the knowledge you’ll acquire, this course will develop and enhance a specific skill set:

  • Critical, analytical, and creative thinking: helping you to solve problems and formulate evidence-based opinions through engaging with course material
  • Communication skills: enhancing your ability to form a written argument, and being able to articulate your opinion in a compassionate and respectful way
  • Organisational skills: such as meeting deadlines, workload management, and wider study skills required for postgraduate learning
  • Software skills: specifically Microsoft Office (including Teams, Word, and Powerpoint) and Moodle

Course structure

Over the course of 11 weeks, we aim to help those with an interest in substance use find a way into understanding this complex social issue, and provide a roadmap for thinking about the possibilities of change. In particular, this course offers the room to critically interrogate your personal and/or professional experiences with drug and/or alcohol use using popular concepts and ideas, and helps you to explore alternative approaches and responses to substance use. You will learn the basics of terminology and theory in the area; explore substance use throughout the life course; debates around harm reduction and recovery; harm to others; and we’ll critically interrogate the current substance use issues faced in Scotland, today.

This 11-week course will take you on a journey through understanding the basics of how we understand substance use in society. The course is split into four blocks:

  • Block A (Weeks 1–2) provides you with an introduction to what we mean when we talk about substance use. It’s also during this time that we will provide you with an introduction to the platforms we will be using throughout the course (Moodle and Microsoft Teams), and with some guidance of how you can access other UofG resources.
  • Building on this, Block B (Weeks 3–4) takes you through some of the main theoretical approaches to understanding substance use (including, but not limited to, biological, psychological, and social models).
  • Week 5 is a reading week to allow you time to complete your first assessment: a critical appraisal of a journal article (up to 800 words, and worth 40% of your grade).
  • In Block C (Weeks 6–9) we build on the theories we explored in the previous block. We will look specifically at: substance use throughout the life course; harm reduction and recovery models; the harm caused to others as a result of someone’s substance use; and current issues in Scotland.
  • Block D (Weeks 10–11) brings the course to a close by providing some alternative ways to think about easing the harm caused by substance use to all parties involved. Week 11 is when you submit your second assessment (worth 60% of your grade) where you’ll be applying some of the theories you looked at in Block B to some of the scenarios we look at in Block C, you’ll get the opportunity to submit this in the style of a blog, a podcast, or narrated slides!

Meet the teaching team

This course is designed and delivered by Dr Sharon Greenwood, Dr Lucy Pickering, and Dr Joyce Nicholson. Sharon, Lucy, and Joyce have a wealth of experience of working, teaching, and researching substance use over the past 30 years. Sharon and Joyce hold particular expertise on the impact of alcohol and drug use on children and family members in Scotland, while Lucy brings her in-depth knowledge of recovery experiences of people who use heroin. 

Course alteration or discontinuation
The University of Glasgow endeavours to run all courses as advertised. In exceptional circumstances, however, the University may withdraw or alter a course. For more information, please see: Student contract.

Career prospects

This course is for anyone with an interest in understanding substance use in more depth. It is particularly suited for those who are working in professions where they have an active role in supporting those affected by problem substance use, working in the fields of:

  • Health and social care
  • Education (primary, secondary, FE/HE)
  • Social work
  • Policing and law enforcement
  • Third sector and advocacy work
  • Public sector policymaking and research

This course is equally well-suited to those seeking to upskill within the substance use field, expand substance-use specific skill sets within allied fields such as policing, education or healthcare, and exploring or transitioning to work in a new field. The balance between core concepts and theoretical foundations, key current debates, and how these are and can be applied in practice provides a solid basis for understanding substance use, and the course has been deliberately designed to provide a stepping off point for deeper academic engagement, or career-changing and career-strengthening options. In addition to the foundation in substance use theory, the course emphasises reflexivity: a critical skill in an often highly politicised field of social and health care; and in developing time management, constructive debate and critical engagement skills, which are essential skills for those seeking to move into substance use or allied areas of work.

Entry requirements

This is a 10-credit postgraduate course. Learners should have 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.

If your first language is not English, you must have a valid IELTS score of 6.5 with no less than 6.0 in any band or an equivalent English language qualification.

We would welcome specific enquiries on a case-by-case basis.

How to apply

This course costs £799. Learners will get full access to course content, plus UofG Student resources and support. All learners will receive a HEAR Transcript to use to evidence their Continued Professional Development. Learners who successfully pass the course assessment will also gain 10 credits (this is optional).

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