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Our innovative MSc Contemporary Alcohol & Drug Studies course adopts a critical social science perspective to explore the interplay between psychoactive substances and society across a range of areas. Our course will introduce you to a range of:

  • Cross disciplinary theories and concepts
  • Descriptions and effects of psychoactive substances
  • Patterns of consumption
  • Approaches to treatment and relevant policy debates
  • Politics of alcohol and drugs policy

You will critically examine patterns of substance use across social groups and the contexts and consequences of substance-related harms for individuals, families and neighbourhoods.

You will also examine the social, economic and political influences on substances and their effects. In addition, you will compare and contrast the operations of the alcohol industry with the drugs economy and explore current debates on alcohol and drug law reforms nationally and internationally.

A Postgraduate Certificate, comprising Understanding Substance Use, Contemporary Responses to Substance Use, and The Politics of Drug & Alcohol Policy is available to study on a part-time basis over 9 months.

Placement Opportunities

Our MSc provides you with the opportunity to engage in Work Based Learning (WBL) with a partner organisation in the drug and alcohol field, or in an academic research setting. A variety of external organisations are involved in our WBL, including:

  • Charities 
  • NGOs
  • Community groups
  • Health related alcohol and drug services

Experiential learning is an important feature of our course, allowing you to apply elements of class based learning to the work place. If you are keen to pursue a career in research or doctoral study, the option to participate in a research WBL experience based within the university is offered. This focuses on the further development of academic research and writing skills.

"Being a clinician, I found that the course helped broaden my knowledge base and my views. The reading material for the first year modules was particularly interesting. The experience of conducting a research study with an experienced supervisor was invaluable."

Saket Priyadarshi, Clinician

Course Details

Our MSc qualification comprises of six 20-credit modules at SCQF Level 11 and the completion of the MSc Dissertation, in which you undertake an independent research project and present your findings in a thesis.


  • Understanding Substance Abuse
  • Contemporary Responses to Substance Abuse
  • The Politics of Drug & Alcohol Policy
  • Research Methods
  • Substance Abuse and Society
  • Work Based Learning
  • MSc Dissertation

Teaching and Assessment

A range of teaching, learning and assessment methodologies are used, including:

  • lectures
  • seminars
  • workshops
  • group work

Our postgraduate course emphasises inquiry-based learning where you are encouraged and supported to develop your critical thinking and communication skills by engaging with your peers in class based and online group work. You are also supported to develop your independent and autonomous learning activities. The modules employ a range of assessment methods and formative exercises with timely feedback to assist you in developing and deepening your knowledge and skills.

The assessments cater for a range of learning styles and skills, and include:

  • essays
  • class based tests
  • policy submissions
  • book reviews
  • oral and poster presentations

Career Prospects

A wide variety of employment options in the drug/alcohol services (in the statutory/voluntary sectors) and in broader youth and social care professions will be available when you graduate.

If you are already employed in services our MSc confers a specialist knowledge of theory and contemporary evidence-based developments in the field and is useful for career advancement and continuing professional development.

Further Study

Following graduating with an MSc, you may wish to apply to study for a PhD in Alcohol & Drug Studies.

"In 2004 I was enrolled as a PhD student in Alcohol and Drug Studies at the University looking at normative beliefs and 'binge' drinking among University students. I was also a Tutor on one module. Prior to this I spent 9 months working for Greater Glasgow Health Board as an Assistant Psychologist in the adolescent deliberate self-harm service. I successfully completed my PhD in June 2008"

Dr John McAlaney

Visit the Contemporary Alcohol & Drug Studies - MSc page on the University of the West of Scotland website for more details!





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Recipient: University of the West of Scotland

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