Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Postgraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2019-2020 (archived)

Module SOCI42530: Drugs, Crime and Society

Department: Sociology

SOCI42530: Drugs, Crime and Society

Type Open Level 4 Credits 30 Availability Not available in 2019/20 Module Cap None.


  • None.


  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None.


  • This module is designed to:
  • Stimulate students' interest in, and enthusiasm for, the field of drug studies by introducing them to current debates, paradigms and perspectives within the field and exploring concepts underlying the epidemiology, criminalisation and consequences of drug use, supply, trafficking and manufacture;
  • Encourage students to develop a critical understanding of issues of drugs, crime, and ‘drug problems’ within criminological and multi-disciplinary frameworks;
  • Use critical analysis of key debates about drugs and ‘drug problems’ to explore the contested nature of ‘knowledge’ in this field;
  • Explore academic, policy and popular representations of drugs within their historical and socio-cultural context;
  • Build upon and further develop knowledge and critical understanding gained from previous modules of study.


  • The regulation, categorisation and criminalisation of psychoactive drugs;
  • The Pharmacology Debate – Addiction theory and the ‘myth’ of addiction;
  • The Normalisation Debate – Adolescent recreational drug use in contemporary society;
  • The Drugs-Crime Debate – ‘Drug problems’, social exclusion and inequality;
  • The Global Prohibition Debate – Drug ‘dealers’ and the international ‘war on drugs’;
  • The Drugs Education debate – Education, prevention and harm reduction;
  • The Subculture Debate – The criminalisation of dance club cultures and the persistence of ecstasy;
  • The Policy Debate – Mephedrone, ‘legal highs’ and the challenge of Novel Psychoactive Substances in the internet age;
  • The British Binge Drinking Debate – The turning tides of intoxication;
  • The Time-Out Debate – Holidays, festivals and carnivalesque consumption.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • By the end of the module students are expected to be able to demonstrate:
  • An appreciation of the ways in which relevant criminological and multi-disciplinary perspectives can be applied to the study of drugs and crime;
  • A critical appreciation of a range of theoretical and empirical studies of drugs and the methodological and ethical challenges to their completion;
  • A knowledge and critical understanding of contemporary debates about drugs and ‘drug problems’ including the nature and role of the media and the internet;
  • An understanding of how historical and socio-cultural circumstances have influenced how we view drugs and ‘drug problems’ today.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • By the end of the module students are expected to be able to:
  • Employ the conceptual apparatus of criminology to express a critical understanding of drugs and crime;
  • Critically evaluate relevant criminological arguments and evidence in the context of drugs, crime and drug issues;
  • Critically analyse key concepts and empirical knowledge employed in debates about drugs from a range of disciplinary perspectives;
  • Show appropriate competency in terms of formulating critical arguments and communicating ideas in relation to drugs and crime;
  • Link learning on this course with other modules in such a way as to enhance understanding of the social sciences as a whole.
Key Skills:
  • By the end of the module students are expected to be able to demonstrate:
  • Further development of time management and organisational skills in producing written papers to an agreed specification and deadline;
  • An ability to gather and critically analyse appropriate information about the subject from a range of different online and offline sources;
  • An ability to construct systematic and coherent written arguments for summative essays and exams.

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • Lectures: weekly lectures provide the framework within which to explore key debates and major themes in the field of drug studies and to stimulate students to think critically and in new ways about the subject of drugs;
  • Seminars: fortnightly seminars provide an opportunity for students to explore in greater depth and collectively the themes and issues arising from lectures and associated reading together in their small groups, through discussions, set tasks, debates and presentations;
  • An optional formative assignment provides an opportunity for students to develop the skills and abilities required for summative assessment by writing a book review of a key monograph in the field. Individual written feedback on the formative assignment enables students to reflect on the development of their critical understanding of the field of drug studies, develop their independent study skills including writing and time management, as well as reading a book directly relevant to subsequent summative assessments;
  • The summative assessment takes the form of an essay to enable students to demonstrate their achievement and understanding of a specific topic in depth and to construct a systematic discussion within space constraints.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures 18 weekly 1 hour 18
Seminars 18 weekly 1 hour 18
Preparation and Reading 264
Total 300

Summative Assessment

Component: Assignment Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
One assessed essay 3,000 50%
One assessed essay 3,000 50%

Formative Assessment:

One optional 1,000 word book review.

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University