Skip to main content

Drugs, Crime and Criminal Justice (Level 6)


Module description

This module provides you with a solid grounding in the key policy and research issues relating to illicit drug use, crime and justice.

Illicit drug use and the associated implications for crime and criminal justice have become central issues for criminal justice and criminology over the last 20 years. Dependent use of illicit drugs such as heroin and crack has increased steeply. With it there have been new crime problems identified and new responses to these problems. The increasing popularity of drugs such as cannabis, dance drugs and cocaine has fuelled the debate about the laws governing drug use and possession. Meanwhile the emergence of so-called legal highs and drug buying and selling using the darknet also poses significant challenges to the current system of control. The increasing societal acceptance of recreational drug use coupled with questions about the effectiveness of the ‘War on Drugs’ and racialised drug policies has led to successive governments being questioned about their reluctance to reform and their unwillingness to find new ways to tackle this complex issue.

Indicative module content

  • Introduction: patterns of drug use
  • Drugs, crime and the law
  • Cannabis and policing
  • Drug treatment, coercion and testing
  • Race and drugs
  • ‘Big business’: the global trade in illicit drugs
  • Virtual drug markets: the case of NPS and the birth of the dark web
  • Drugs in prisons
  • The legalisation debates

Learning objectives

By the end of this module, you will have:

  • a broad understanding of key concepts in the study drug laws and policy
  • critically examined and analysed a range of policy approaches to illicit drug use
  • critically examined the responses of the criminal justice system to those who use or are involved in the trade surrounding illegal drugs
  • critically examined the key alternative policies and systems to the existing national and international approaches.