Fall 2019 - HSCI 402 D100

Substance Use, Addiction and Public Health (3)

Class Number: 2624

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Sep 3 – Dec 2, 2019: Thu, 11:30 a.m.–2:20 p.m.

  • Prerequisites:

    HSCI 214.



Examination of substance use and addiction focusing on alcohol and 'illicit drugs" as major psychoactive use categories — within a framework of public health. Major topics covered in the course include fundamental concepts in substance use and addiction: historical, economic, political factors influencing substance use and control, epidemiology and patterns of substance abuse in general and special risk populations, substance use related morbidity, mortality and social harms and their impacts on public health: social and environmental determinants of substance use, risks and harms, prevention, treatment and approaches and interventions and policy/control options to reduce substance use related risks and harms in the population.


COURSE DESCRIPTION: This course examines substance use and addiction within the context of public health. Major topics covered in the course include: social determinants of substance use and addiction; varieties of substance use and their associated impacts on public health; economic, political, and global factors influencing the conceptualization and prevalence of addiction; etiological theories of addiction; treatment approaches and interventions to reduce risks and harm; models and policies for prevention and control.

COURSE FORMAT: The course will be taught as a senior undergraduate course combining lecture style teaching with class/seminar based discussions. In addition, class meetings will involve supplementary audio-visual materials and group project work/presentations. The course will include class discussions and interactions based on course content and materials, building on and expecting active and informed student participation. In-depth understanding, critical analysis and integration of key concepts and evidence covered in the course will be facilitated and evaluated through a group project, as well as an individual take-home exams/essays.


This course intends to provide students with a strong foundational knowledge of key issues related to psychoactive substance use within a public health framework. Specifically, the course aims to define a ‘public health’ framework for psychoactive substance use; illustrate the impact of select forms of psychoactive substance on public health, and their key risk factors and determinants; examine the specific characteristics of these impacts in key risk populations; and critically examine evidence for select interventions with reference to policy and programs.

Following completion of this course, students will be able to:
·      Critically evaluate major theories and conceptualizations of substance use and addiction at the population level
·      Critically examine the role of social determinants related to the prevalence of substance use and  the production of harms
·      Critically examine public health approaches to substance use and addiction in terms of social norms, values, and scientific evidence
·      Articulate and evaluate public health responses to substance use and addiction in a defined context


  • First take-home exam/essay 25%
  • Group project 20%
  • Second take-home exam/essay 30%
  • Knowledge Quiz #1 5%
  • Knowledge Quiz #2 10%
  • Class participation 10%





1) Babor, T et al. (2010) Alcohol: No Ordinary Commodity - Research and Public Policy (Second Edition).  Oxford University Press;
2) Babor, T. et al. (2018). Drug Policy and the Public Good (Second Edition). Oxford University Press.

Registrar Notes:

SFU’s Academic Integrity web site http://www.sfu.ca/students/academicintegrity.html is filled with information on what is meant by academic dishonesty, where you can find resources to help with your studies and the consequences of cheating.  Check out the site for more information and videos that help explain the issues in plain English.

Each student is responsible for his or her conduct as it affects the University community.  Academic dishonesty, in whatever form, is ultimately destructive of the values of the University. Furthermore, it is unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly. Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the University. http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/student/s10-01.html