Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences

POPLHLTH 737 - Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drug Studies

15 Points

Semester 1


Provides an introduction and overview to studies on alcohol and other drugs. Incorporates theory and research developed within public health, mental health, and specialised treatment frameworks. Topics will include: coverage of historical developments, a review of major theoretical issues and an overview of current trends.

Course content and aim

Goals of the course

  • To provide an introduction to major trends in alcohol and drug research
  • To promote a critical appreciation of major theoretical issues in the field
  • To foster graduate student interest, knowledge and possible ongoing commitment to research and practice in the alcohol, other drug and related fields

Learning outcomes

By the end of the course, students will be able to:

  • Demonstrate an understanding of the main assumptions and conceptual models used to respond to harm associated with alcohol and other drug use
  • Articulate the theoretical and evidential base for approaches they adopt
  • Relate theory and practice to individual contexts and problems
  • Take positions within theoretical debates and demonstrate an ability to argue for them

Content outline

The content of the course will be presented to illustrate issues posed by the following five critical dilemmas:

  • Abstinence versus harm reduction approaches
  • Brief versus substantive interventions
  • Social versus individual models of care
  • Public health versus treatment interventions
  • Universal versus culturally specific approaches

These dilemmas will recur as themes within specific topics such as the following:


• Patterns and history of drug use in New Zealand

• Techniques in liquor advertising

• Culturally based approaches to treatment and policy


• Differentiating social from problem and dependent use

• Screening and assessment

• Development of brief intervention strategies

• Tobacco cessation and education programmes


• Effectiveness of treatment interventions

• Specific interventions: methadone, therapeutic communities, etc.

• Effects of dependency on the family

• Co-existent drug and mental health problems

Programme and course advice

It is most relevant to students pursuing careers in health research, public health, mental health and specialist practice in alcohol and other drug services. This course would suit a wide variety of students interested in developing a framework for thinking about and processing ideas on alcohol, drugs and other addictions. It is the core paper in the Postgraduate Certificate in Health Sciences specialisation Alcohol and Drug Studies or may be taken as a standalone course as part of another programme.

POPLHLTH 737 is one of the required courses for the Addiction specialisation in the Master of Health Practice.

It is an optional course for the BHSc(Hons) programme.

Learning and teaching

The course will consist of four block teaching days plus self-directed reading and assignments. The reading will focus both on a general knowledge of the field and the development of specialist interests. The teaching assumes that students will devote time between each block to read the prescribed text and photocopied articles. Students will be encouraged to develop their own perspectives and interests and to relate these to their work environment. Assignment work assumes significant self-directed reading into specialist interest areas. Class teaching will involve a mixture of presentations and discussion. The main aim is to provide a general introduction to issues with each dilemma in order to inform subsequent discussion. Students are encouraged to participate actively in discussions and to clearly communicate both consenting and dissenting viewpoints.

Campus teaching dates 

This course is held at Tāmaki Campus. Please see your timetable on SSO or Building 730 Reception noticeboard on the day for the room details.

Learning resources 

We will provide lecture summaries on CANVAS immediately after the presentations, and selected articles are provided at the first class of the course.


Assignment 1 – 15% (1500 words)

Outline of Essay Argument - The key task for this assignment is that you write an outline or plan for ‘Applied Essay’. This will provide opportunity for feedback and clarification in the development of a focus for the Applied Essay.

Assignment 2 – 40% (4000 words)

Applied Essay - Your material must incorporate an exploration of one or more of the five critical dilemmas which are discussed throughout the course. The work will be assessed on how well the essay incorporates research and theory into either a critical appraisal of an intervention strategy or the design of an original project. You need to look carefully at the context in which the strategy is being applied. The appraisal of the strategy should attempt to balance theoretical with practical issues. You are strongly encouraged to discuss the development of your work with the lecturer as it proceeds.

The overall task (i.e. on completion of both assignments) is that you demonstrate a clear and full understanding of a relevant area or issue and that you are able to argue your own position on that issue.

Examination - 2 hours 45%

Note that the examination timetables are not finalised and available to students until 6-8 weeks into the semester. 


Course Coordinator

Course Director

Course Administrator