1. Handbook
  2. Subjects
  3. Drugs That Shape Society
  4. Print

Drugs That Shape Society (UNIB20008)

Undergraduate level 2Points: 12.5On Campus (Parkville)

You’re viewing the 2019 Handbook:
Or view archived Handbooks


Year of offer2019
Subject levelUndergraduate Level 2
Subject codeUNIB20008
Semester 2
FeesSubject EFTSL, Level, Discipline & Census Date

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.

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.

Eligibility and requirements





Non-allowed subjects


Core participation requirements

The University of Melbourne is committed to providing students with reasonable adjustments to assessment and participation under the Disability Standards for Education (2005), and the Assessment and Results Policy (MPF1326). Students are expected to meet the core participation requirements for their course. These can be viewed under Entry and Participation Requirements for the course outlines in the Handbook.

Further details on how to seek academic adjustments can be found on the Student Equity and Disability Support website: http://services.unimelb.edu.au/student-equity/home



  • 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.

Dates & times

  • Semester 2
    Principal coordinatorMichael Lew
    CoordinatorRichard Hughes
    Mode of deliveryOn Campus — Parkville
    Contact hours2 x 1hr lectures per week, 1 x 1hr tutorial per week
    Total time commitment170 hours
    Teaching period29 July 2019 to 27 October 2019
    Last self-enrol date 9 August 2019
    Census date31 August 2019
    Last date to withdraw without fail27 September 2019
    Assessment period ends22 November 2019

    Semester 2 contact information

    Subject Coordinators

    Assoc Prof Tony Hughes


    Dr Michael Lew


    Administrative Coordination


Time commitment details

170 hours

Further information

  • Texts

    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 and other resources

    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
  • Available through the Community Access Program

    About the Community Access Program (CAP)

    This subject is available through the Community Access Program (also called Single Subject Studies) which allows you to enrol in single subjects offered by the University of Melbourne, without the commitment required to complete a whole degree.

    Entry requirements including prerequisites may apply. Please refer to the CAP applications page for further information.

  • Available to Study Abroad and/or Study Exchange Students

    This subject is available to students studying at the University from eligible overseas institutions on exchange and study abroad. Students are required to satisfy any listed requirements, such as pre- and co-requisites, for enrolment in the subject.

Last updated: 14 August 2019