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Module Specifications

Archived Version 2015 - 2016

Module Title Drugs in Society
Module Code NS141
School School of Nursing and Human Sciences

Online Module Resources

Module Co-ordinatorDr Mark PhilbinOffice NumberH245b
NFQ level 8 Credit Rating 5
Pre-requisite None
Co-requisite None
Compatibles None
Incompatibles None

In contemporary societies, controversies abound in relation to what counts as proper and improper drug use as well as how drugs should be controlled, regulated, supplied, encouraged and discouraged. Within this module, these controversies are explored through a focus on arguments about alcohol policy, the decriminalisation of some illicit drug use, medicalisation and prescription drugs, and drug-assisted human enhancement.

Learning Outcomes

1. Discuss the value of a 'rational approach' to the evaluation of drug-related harms
2. Appraise the potential for 'responsible drug use' with particular attention to alcohol use in Ireland
3. Explore the idea of addiction and its implications for the identities of people whose lives are structured by problematic drug use
4. Examine the case for the decriminalisation of illicit drug use in Ireland
5. Examine arguments about the uses of medication and how this relates to population health
6. Explore the ethics of drug-assisted human enhancement.

Workload Full-time hours per semester
Type Hours Description
Lecture24Participation in lecture-discussion
Debate12Preparations for participation in seminar series
Seminars6Participation in a seminar series of "group arguments"
Tutorial4In support of the seminar series
Assignment Completion12Preparation of short papers linked to the seminar series
Assignment Completion30Preparation of an essay on the possibility of responsible drug use
Independent Study37For general reading and use of Loop
Total Workload: 125

All module information is indicative and subject to change. For further information,students are advised to refer to the University's Marks and Standards and Programme Specific Regulations at: http://www.dcu.ie/registry/examinations/index.shtml

Indicative Content and Learning Activities

Drug-related harms
With particular reference to the work of David Nutt, we explore the notion of a "rational approach" to the evaluation of drug-related harms and the various related implications for policy and service provision.

Responsibility and recreational drug use
We explore the "responsible use" of recreational drugs. We examine ideas to do with personal responsibility and social responsibility and give particular attention to the example of "responsible drinking".

Addiction and identity
We examine moral, dispositional, medical and sociological accounts of addiction and the varied implications of these accounts for the identities and situations of people whose lives are structured by problematic drug use.

Decriminalisation as an Irish policy option
In the light of a review of Irish policy, we evaluate the case for the decriminalisation of at least some drug use that is currently illegal.

Medication and medicalisation
We examine the role of medication in population health, the rise of "blockbuster drugs" and psychiatric drug prescriptions, the activities of pharmaceutical companies, and relevant arguments to do with medicalisation.

Drugs and human enhancement
We analyse ideas about "becoming more than oneself" through the use of drugs as well as debates about human enhancement in sporting performance, cognitive function, moral development and "cosmetic neurology."

Assessment Breakdown
Continuous Assessment100% Examination Weight%
Course Work Breakdown
TypeDescription% of totalAssessment Date
Reassessment Requirement
Resit arrangements are explained by the following categories;
1 = A resit is available for all components of the module
2 = No resit is available for 100% continuous assessment module
3 = No resit is available for the continuous assessment component
Indicative Reading List

  • Goldacre, B.: 2013, Bad Pharma: How medicine is broken, and how we can fix it, Fourth Estate, London,
  • McKeganey, N.P.: 2011, Controversies in Drugs Policy and Practice, Palgrave Macmillan, Houndmills,
  • Nutt, D.: 2012, Drugs- Without the Hot Air: Minimizing the harms of legal and illegal drugs, UIT Cambridge, Cambridge,
  • Babor, T: 2010, Alcohol: No ordinary commodity, Oxford University Press, Oxford,
  • Bean, P.: 2010, Legalising Drugs: Debates and dilemmas, Policy Press, Bristol,
  • Carnwath, T. & Smith, I.: 2002, Heroin Century, Routledge, London,
  • Dumit, J.: 2012, Drugs for Life: How pharmaceutical companies define our health, Duke University Press, Durham,
  • Fleetwood, J.: 2014, Drug Mules: Women in the international cocaine trade, Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke,
  • Harris, J.: 2010, Enhancing Evolution: The ethical case for making better people, Princeton University Press, Princeton,
  • Healy, D.: 2004, Let Them Eat Prozac, New York University Press, New York,
  • Healy, D.: 2012, Pharmageddon, University of California, Berkeley,
  • Karp, D.A.: 2006, Is It Me or My Meds?, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Mass.,
  • Kramer, P: 1997, Listening to Prozac, Penguin, New York,
  • Peele, S. & Grant, M.: 2014, Alcohol and Pleasure: A health perspective, Routledge, London,
  • Pryce, S.: 2012, Fixing Drugs: The politics of drugs prohibition, Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke,
  • Sismondo, S. & Greene, J.A.: 2015, The Pharmaceutical Studies Reader, John Wiley & Sons, Chichester,
  • Szasz, T.: 1996, Our right to drugs, Syracuse Unversity Press, Syracuse,
  • Whitaker, R.: 2010, Anatomy of an Epidemic, Crown, New York,
Other Resources

Programme or List of Programmes
BHSBachelor of Science in Health & Society
BPYBSc (Honours) in Psychology
BSSAStudy Abroad (DCU Business School)
BSSAOStudy Abroad (DCU Business School)
ECSAStudy Abroad (Engineering & Computing)
ECSAOStudy Abroad (Engineering & Computing)
HMSAStudy Abroad (Humanities & Soc Science)
HMSAOStudy Abroad (Humanities & Soc Science)
SHSAStudy Abroad (Science & Health)
SHSAOStudy Abroad (Science & Health)