Skip to main content

Unit information: Drug Use and Addiction in 2021/22

Unit name Drug Use and Addiction
Unit code PSYC30020
Credit points 20
Level of study H/6
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Dr. Maynard
Open unit status Not open




School/department School of Psychological Science
Faculty Faculty of Life Sciences

Description including Unit Aims

This unit provides a comprehensive introduction to drug use and the problem of addiction. It provides a framework for further independent study of the key issues and current research. A key aim of this unit is to understand the process of addiction from initiation of drug use through to treatment of addiction and relapse. It will address psychological, biological and social factors that influence this process and explore how and why individuals differ in their propensity to take drugs and develop addiction. The unit will introduce current theories of addiction and approaches to treatment, including current research and theory on behaviour change. The pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic profiles of different classes of drugs of abuse will be considered in order to understand how and why patterns of drug use differ and why drugs have different abuse liabilities and associated harms. The unit also present and discuss several critical issues in drug use and addiction, including drug-related policy (such as drug legalisation and harms classification) and social stigma. A primary learning outcome of this unit is for students to develop a deeper understanding of the complexity of drug use and addiction from both a biological and social perspective, and the challenges of developing effective treatment strategies.

Intended Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this unit, a student will be able to:

  1. Illustrate the field of Drug use and Addiction by relating biological and cognitive perspectives to the psychology of drug use and addiction
  2. Analyse the complexity of the addiction phenotype, including variation in the phenotype across drugs and people.
  3. Evaluate current theoretical models of addiction and characterise the underlying mechanisms of addictive behaviour.
  4. Compare different approaches to treating addiction and illustrate how different treatment approaches may align with current models of addiction.
  5. Distinguish the reasons for drug use and describe the potential positive, as well as negative, consequences of drug use.
  6. Demonstrate the societal importance of contemporary issues in drug use and addiction.
  7. Apply evidence and theory to debate the ‘Big Questions’ in the field of Drug Use and Addiction.

Teaching Information

Self-paced online asynchronous learning materials will be supported with weekly live synchronous sessions.

These live sessions will take a variety of different forms depending on the focus of the week, but will typically include Q&A based on the weeks' content, student discussion groups and Q&A with invited speakers.

Assessment Information

1 x 1600-word coursework (50%) and 1 x timed assessment (50%)


If this unit has a Resource List, you will normally find a link to it in the Blackboard area for the unit. Sometimes there will be a separate link for each weekly topic.

If you are unable to access a list through Blackboard, you can also find it via the Resource Lists homepage. Search for the list by the unit name or code (e.g. PSYC30020).

How much time the unit requires
Each credit equates to 10 hours of total student input. For example a 20 credit unit will take you 200 hours of study to complete. Your total learning time is made up of contact time, directed learning tasks, independent learning and assessment activity.

See the Faculty workload statement relating to this unit for more information.

The Board of Examiners will consider all cases where students have failed or not completed the assessments required for credit. The Board considers each student's outcomes across all the units which contribute to each year's programme of study. If you have self-certificated your absence from an assessment, you will normally be required to complete it the next time it runs (this is usually in the next assessment period).
The Board of Examiners will take into account any extenuating circumstances and operates within the Regulations and Code of Practice for Taught Programmes.