Drugs That Shape Society

Subject UNIB20008 (2015)

Note: This is an archived Handbook entry from 2015.

Credit Points: 12.5
Level: 2 (Undergraduate)
Dates & Locations:

This subject has the following teaching availabilities in 2015:

Semester 2, Parkville - Taught on campus.
Pre-teaching Period Start not applicable
Teaching Period 27-Jul-2015 to 25-Oct-2015
Assessment Period End 20-Nov-2015
Last date to Self-Enrol 07-Aug-2015
Census Date 31-Aug-2015
Last date to Withdraw without fail 25-Sep-2015

Timetable can be viewed here. For information about these dates, click here.
Time Commitment: Contact Hours: 2 x 1hr lectures per week, 1 x 1hr tutorial per week
Total Time Commitment:

170 hours

Prerequisites: None
Corequisites: None
Recommended Background Knowledge: None
Non Allowed Subjects: None
Core Participation Requirements:

For the purposes of considering request for Reasonable Adjustments under the Disability Standards for Education (Cwth 2005), and Student Support and Engagement Policy, academic requirements for this subject are articulated in the Subject Overview, Learning Outcomes, Assessment and Generic Skills sections of this entry.

It is University policy to take all reasonable steps to minimise the impact of disability upon academic study, and reasonable adjustments will be made to enhance a student's participation in the University's programs. Students who feel their disability may impact on meeting the requirements of this subject are encouraged to discuss this matter with a Faculty Student Adviser and Student Equity and Disability Support: http://services.unimelb.edu.au/disability


Dr Michael Lew, Dr Michelle Hansen


Subject Coordinators

Dr Michael Lew


Dr Michelle Hansen


Academic Coordinator


Subject Overview:

Drugs that Shape Society is a compelling story of drugs that provides insight to us as individuals and as a society. Drugs impact our lives in many different ways. Social responses to their use have shaped our laws, the health system, commerce – even foreign policies.
In Australia the use of therapeutic drugs is carefully regulated to maintain cost and safety, some recreational drugs are taxed heavily to provide government income, while others are banned and huge costs are incurred attempting to prevent their use. Other countries have a different blend of risk, responsibility and regulation.

Drugs that Shape Society is a University breadth subject available to all second-year students. Using a case-study approach, students will explore the scientific, social, historical and legal issues associated with alcohol, opiates, tobacco, penicillin and thalidomide.

Any drug use carries risk – medical, social, ethical and legal. Who has been, or is, responsible for managing that risk? What is the role of policy and regulation in minimising risk and assigning responsibility? These questions will be explored by consideration of the scientific, ethical and economic factors determining drug development; the addictive nature of certain drugs, the striking contrasts between drug marketing strategies, ranging from illegal dealing to professional multi-facted advertising; and the risks associated with legal and illicit drug use and abuse.

Lectures will provide basic information about the processes leading to the development of the drugs, their mechanism of action, the historical context of their impact on society, and how this has been handled legally. Tutorials and small group work will allow students to discuss and debate the issues raised and to put them into the context of their own experiences.

Learning Outcomes:

By the end of this unit students will
- Have an understanding of the scientific basis of the action of the drugs studied, the historical context of their impact on society and the mores and legal responses of societies to these drugs, and drugs in general;
- Be able to examine critically, synthesis and evaluate knowledge pertaining to drugs across a range of disciplines;
- Participate in collaborative learning and respond to issues associated with drug use in society;
- Engage in meaningful public discourse, with an awareness of the impact of drugs in society and the needs of the community in response to this;
- Have a broad understanding of the impact of drug development and utilisation, with a high regard for ethics.

  • One written assessment (1500 words) due mid Semester (25%)
  • Continuing assessment - regular online tests, tutorial tasks, report on the Magistrates Court visit (25%)
  • 2 hour end of semester examination, end of semester (50%)

Completion of a field trip to the Magistrates Court is compulsory and at least 80% attendance at tutorials is required.

Prescribed Texts:

Stephens, T & Brynner R, (2001) Dark Remedy: The Impact of Thalidomide and its Revival as a Vital Medicine, Perseus Publishing, Cambridge, Massachusetts ISBN 0-738-0404-8 Also available as eBook.

Alison Ritter, Trevor King, Margaret Hamilton (2013), Drug Use in Australian Society, Oxford University Press ISBN 978-0-19-551886-3

Recommended Texts:

Merchants of Doubt:
How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming
Oreskes, Naomi & Conway, Erik
(edition: 2011)
ISBN/APN: 9781408824665

A primer of drug action, Julien, Advozat, Comaty, 2011, (Worth Publishers).
ISBN 13: 978-1-4292-3343-9
ISBN 10: 1-4292-3343-5

Breadth Options:

This subject potentially can be taken as a breadth subject component for the following courses:

You should visit learn more about breadth subjects and read the breadth requirements for your degree, and should discuss your choice with your student adviser, before deciding on your subjects.

Fees Information: Subject EFTSL, Level, Discipline & Census Date
Generic Skills:

On completion of this subject students should
- Have an appreciation of different perspectives about the way that society can be shaped by contingent factors and by human nature;
- Be exposes to and practice a variety of ways of knowing and should develop cognitive skill that will support life-long learning;
- Be adept at learning in a range of ways.

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