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Substance Use and Addiction Theories

Module MHR4503
Level Level 7
Credits 15
FeesSee fees and funding below
Start date April 2024
Delivery mode Online Distance Education
Module leader David Garcia


This module critically examines the key theories and concepts relating to substance use and addiction. It aims to provide you with an overview and understanding of how theory and research is linked to policy and practice. The intention is to stimulate critical debate concerning the explicit and implicit theories and understandings which inform policy and practice and to encourage you to consider the relevance of different theoretical approaches within your own work.

This module is ideal for health and social care professionals, working in a variety of settings who have an interest in substance use and wish to extend their knowledge and understanding.

Using a ‘life course’ approach, this module aims to develop your skills in the interpretation of different stages in the course of substance use and addiction through an examination of drug use patterns and addiction theories. You'll also be enabled to critically evaluate the different theoretical approaches and develop the abilities in applying them to policies, strategies and interventions.

In this module, the term ‘drug’ or ‘substance’ is used to include both legal and illegal drugs, i.e. alcohol, tobacco and drugs such as opiates, cocaine, ecstasy etc.

Course content

During this module, you will learn to:

  1. Critically appraise the diversity, similarities and complementarities between different theoretical approaches
  2. Critically analyse and explain drug using career pathways drawing on relevant theoretical frameworks
  3. Synthesise and critique key theoretical debates and arguments
  4. Analyse case study material (identification, selection, application and critical engagement with key texts and documents)

Learning and teaching

This module is taught via distance learning. Distance learning materials will include online module workbooks to guide reading, exercises and activities. For each unit of study, the workbook will provide a brief introduction to the topic, specific learning outcomes for the unit, a list of essential reading, and recommended further reading as well as exercises and activities to help you understand the issues, test your understanding, consolidate your reading and knowledge, and interaction with other students and the tutor.

You will also use:

  • Podcast lectures by key experts in the field
  • Tutorial support via email, phone, Zoom/Skype and peer support
  • Online discussion board for module to debate and comment on key issues
  • Microsoft Teams/Kaltura – for students to share materials, use online meeting rooms and video conference.

Practice assignments will be required for some units. These will provide an opportunity to gain structured feedback from the tutor. You will also be required to post your comments and thoughts on key debates to the online discussion board to interact and receive feedback from your tutor and colleagues.

The module will consist of the following 5 units:

  1. “Setting the scene:” The interaction between the drug, the person and the social setting
  2. Biological theories
  3. Psychological theories
  4. Sociological theories
  5. From no use to use without problems, problem use and dependency

There will opportunities for individual tutorials and formative feedback on essay plans.


Summative assessment scheme

You'll look at three case studies presenting different consumption careers as set by the teaching team. You will be asked to employ different theoretical perspectives to analyse and explain the drug using career pathways of two of the case studies. The analysis of the case studies will be written up as a  2,500 word essay

Teaching dates

The module comprise five units which will be delivered over 10 weeks with all learning materials accessed via the online myLearning platform.

Date Study unit title
Monday 29 April 2024Welcome and introduction to the module. Drop-in online session via Zoom 4pm-5pm (will be recorded)
Week commencing 13 May 2024Unit 2: Biological theories
Week commencing 27 May 2024Unit 3: Psychological theories
Week commencing 10 June 2024Unit 4: Sociological theories
Week commencing 24 June 2024Unit 5: Drug consumption careers
Monday 8 July 2024Assignment briefing online session. Topics: essay structure, case scenarios, critical analysis and academic writing
Monday 22 July 2024Assignment preparation. Optional ‘drop in’ advice session where you can ask questions about your assignment, 4pm - 5:30pm via Zoom
Monday 5 August 2024 23:59Assignment deadline

How to apply

To be eligible for this module, you must provide evidence of an ability to study at Level 6.

Apply for this module through our online application form.

Fees and funding

The fees* below refer to the 2023/24 academic year unless otherwise stated.

Per credit: £63
15 credits: £945

*Course fees are subject to annual inflation.

There are several funding options available:

  • receiving course fees via CPPD contracts between NHS trusts and Middlesex University
  • paying your own fees
  • sponsorship by your employer (but not under a CPPD contract).

For more information for any of these options, including fee rates for self-funding/employer-sponsored students, please visit our dedicated funding page.

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