CR5022 - Drugs, Crime and Society

What will I learn on this module?

How are drugs produced, traded and distributed? How are patterns of drug use, misuse and dependency changing? How is this all shaped by patterns of public, private and criminal power? This module provides some of the answers by equipping students with the interdisciplinary knowledge, understanding and critical skills to analyse drug use and drug markets in the twenty-first century.

The first half of the module introduces students to key themes and debates in drug studies, with an emphasis on the relationship between drugs, crime, society, culture, technology and political economy. We will cover cross-disciplinary theoretical, conceptual and policy debates, taking the study of drugs beyond mainstream approaches. We will explore the impact of drug use and drug markets on contemporary society, including challenges relating to power, inequality, globalisation and new technologies.

The second half of the module covers several contemporary drug issues. It offers in-depth examinations of drug use, supply, trafficking and manufacture on global and local levels, as well as responses from policy makers and practitioners involved in drug enforcement, regulation and harm reduction. The module is designed to provide students with the opportunity to acquire expert knowledge of contemporary drug issues by drawing upon cutting-edge research. Content will change annually to provide up-to-date research-led teaching and learning. Current areas of expertise include: technology and online drug dealing; drug cultures and identities; health inequalities and harm reduction; narcopolitics and narcostates; and global and local markets in cocaine, heroin, cannabis, pharmaceutical drugs, image- and performance-enhancing drugs (IPEDs), and novel psychoactive substances (NPS).

How will I learn on this module?

Learning techniques including lectures, seminar discussions, student and guest presentations. Alongside lectures used to convey core theoretical and substantive material, seminars will include student-led discussion as well as numerous research-tutored and based activities. Seminars will be used to discuss, debate, and reinforce knowledge and concepts and to explore additional case study material. Supporting resources will be indicated or made available via the eLearning Portal.

Under the guidance of the lecturers, you will be expected to prepare for and contribute to weekly seminars, identifying appropriate areas for group work and engaging in focused, detailed in-depth discussion on contemporary drug issues. Lecturers will encourage you to identify appropriate subject areas for research, to devise manageable and well-focused written work, and to plan a schedule of work to function successfully as an independent learner.

How will I be supported academically on this module?

Staff members will be available to support you via email, in class, and during scheduled office hours. There is also substantial support from your fellow students during seminars and outside of class.

What will I be expected to read on this module?

All modules at Northumbria include a range of reading materials that students are expected to engage with. The reading list for this module can be found at:
(Reading List service online guide for academic staff this containing contact details for the Reading List team –

What will I be expected to achieve?

Knowledge & Understanding:
1. ability to describe, evaluate, synthesise and critically appraise different aspects of relevant knowledge in application to contemporary drug issues and society.
2. reflect critically on extant literature and research on drugs relating to crime, harm, society, political economy, culture, technology and globalisation.

Intellectual / Professional skills & abilities:
3. research and review literature and communicate appropriately and coherently in group discussions and written work.
4. ability to engage in effective academic discussion around chosen topic and present appropriate and academically rigorous arguments in a professional manner.
Personal Values Attributes (Global / Cultural awareness, Ethics, Curiosity) (PVA):
5. demonstrate intellectual curiosity, flexibility and openness of ideas when analysing a specific topic.

How will I be assessed?

Summative Assessments:

Online Blog (1000 words) (30%)
For the blog, students will be required to research a relevant and contemporary topic relating to the module’s key theme – drugs, crime, and society – and demonstrate a critical and contextualised understanding of it. A list of topics will be circulated by the module tutor.

Essay (2500 words) (70%)
For the essay, students should be able to present a coherently argued discussion of a contemporary drug issue and critically discuss it in relation to relevant societal, cultural, political, economic, cultural, technological and/or environmental factors discussed throughout the module. A list of essay questions will be circulated by the module tutor.

The lectures and seminars will support the formative assessment for this module, allowing for guided support and discussion around both the blog and the essay. Both assessments address all five MLOs.





Module abstract


Course info

UCAS Code M900

Credits 20

Level of Study Undergraduate

Mode of Study 3 years full-time or 4 years with a placement (sandwich)/study abroad

Department Social Sciences

Location City Campus, Northumbria University

City Newcastle

Start September 2024 or September 2025

Fee Information

Module Information

All information is accurate at the time of sharing. 

Full time Courses are primarily delivered via on-campus face to face learning but could include elements of online learning. Most courses run as planned and as promoted on our website and via our marketing materials, but if there are any substantial changes (as determined by the Competition and Markets Authority) to a course or there is the potential that course may be withdrawn, we will notify all affected applicants as soon as possible with advice and guidance regarding their options. It is also important to be aware that optional modules listed on course pages may be subject to change depending on uptake numbers each year.  

Contact time is subject to increase or decrease in line with possible restrictions imposed by the government or the University in the interest of maintaining the health and safety and wellbeing of students, staff, and visitors if this is deemed necessary in future.


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