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Drugs, Crime and the Criminal Justice System

( cr.) - Session(s): | Course

This class emphasizes a sociological understanding of drug use, drug problems and drug policy.  In order to understand drug use and abuse it is necessary to understand the chemical properties of the substances at issue, the attributes of the people who use and abuse drugs, and the norms and characteristics of the society in which the substance use occurs. There will be an examination of the nature and scope of the relationship between drugs (including alcohol) and crime and violence, and the effect of drug legislation on the criminal justice system. We will examine literature on the drugs-crime relationship and explores various approaches to collecting data on drug use and abuse in society.  

Students completing this course will be able to: 

  • Discuss the positive and negative effects of a wide variety of drugs.
  • Contrast the potential harm of specific drugs across a number of indicators of harm.
  • Articulate empirical generalizations (i.e. trends, patterns) regarding drug use across a number of correlates (i.e. age, race, social class, gender).
  • Articulate and contrast the key theories employed to understand drug use and abuse.
  • Articulate the key issues affecting drug prevention and treatment, and discuss what research has concluded about the effectiveness of select prevention and treatment programs.
  • Articulate the differences major differences in drug policy, particularly contrasting the harm-minimization approach adopted by many countries abroad with the approach currently employed in the United States.
  • Describe theoretical accounts for the patterns of drug use evidenced by distinct groups in society (gender, race, class).
  • Critically evaluate existing drug policy (treatment, prevention and control) and to propose feasible alternatives.
  • Discuss how legal and illegal psychoactive drugs are far more similar than different and that the legal status of a drug often has little to do with the capacity of a drug to generate harm to the user and to society.

Contact Information
141 Johnson Hall
(919) 760-8593