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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.
Intended 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.
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.
Last updated: 6 December 2023