The University of Newcastle, Australia
Not currently offered
Course code



10 units


2000 level

Course handbook


Patterns of drug use and the representation of drugs as a social issue have great sociological significance. Drug and alcohol use is pervasive in contemporary societies and drug misuse is recognised as a major legal, social and public health issue. The course will investigate the social context, and competing theories about and explanations of the pattern and significance of drug and alcohol use and misuse. Health and other government policies, legal aspects, and the use of particular substances will be studied together with competing policy positions on the control of legal and illegal substances.


Not currently offered.

This Course was last offered in Semester 2 - 2019.

Learning outcomes

On successful completion of the course students will be able to:

1. Identify a range of sociological theories of drug and alcohol use and relate them to contemporary issues.

2. Compare and contrast Australian law relating to substance use with legal frameworks in comparable countries.

3. Critically analyse Australian social and health policies and initiatives on substance use in their international context.

4. Apply sociological theories to media coverage around substance use and misuse.


Sociological theories of structural inequality, deviance, labelling, moral panics, surveillance and normalisation.

The definition of legal and illegal drugs in historical context.

Frameworks for understanding drug use including moral, criminal, health and welfare.

The role of the media and popular culture.

Australian Legal frameworks, law enforcement and decriminalisation in international context.

Australian social and health policies in international context, including debates over harm minimisation and alcohol free zones.

Youth culture, class and ethnicity in relation to health promotion and drug normalisation.

Assumed knowledge

40 units at 1000 level

Assessment items

Professional Task: Policy analysis or briefing paper (30%)

Quiz: 3 x online quizzes (30%)

In Term Test: In class Test (10%)

Written Assignment: 1000 Words News Analysis (30%)