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Drug control in comparative perspective



14:30 - 17:20


1st semester

Lecture venue
Lecture time
Offer semester
  • Ever wondered why people use drugs? In recent decades, global discourse and narratives on drug use and supply has increasingly gained the attention of politics, the media and the public. These debates take place in both a local and global arena given the increasingly polarizing approaches to controlling drug use, models of rehabilitation and the evolving nature of the drug markets themselves. So too are our own view of drug sellers and users which are shaped by stereotypes perpetuated in the media.

    We seek to understand why people take and sell drugs, how drug use is understood within societies and how societies respond.  In doing so, we enable students to develop a deeper critical understanding of societal issues concerning illegal drugs, crime and how policy and practices alleviate them. Students will explore issues around drug use, supply and associated criminal behaviour from a social and subcultural perspective, understanding how some people’s drug use is disproportionally framed as ‘problematic’. We explore different frameworks and approaches to governing drug use and rehabilitation around the globe Finally, we discuss the future of drugs in our society through understanding how technology, media and globalization shapes the changing drug markets.

    This course will develop a multi-disciplinary understanding of drugs in Hong Kong and elsewhere by enabling students to apply sociological, criminological, historical and cultural perspectives to the study of drug use, drug supply and policy responses to this ‘social problem’. Student will benefit from a range of speakers, from academics who have conducted ethnographic research in drug subcultures, NGOs and people who used drugs (lived experience).

    1. Develop nuanced research and theory informed understanding of drugs, drug use, drug markets and policies locally and globally.

    2. Critically assess and engage with major drug research, theory and local and global ‘grey’ literature

    3. Apply and assess theoretical explanations and policy findings concerning drugs, drug use, drugs markets and drug policy.

  • Tasks


    Written Paper


    Group project




  • Coomber, Ross; McElrath, Karen; Measham, Fiona and Moore, Karenza (2013). Key Concepts in Drugs and Society. London: SAGE.

    Harm Reduction International. (2022) Annual Report.

    Narcotics Division, Security Bureau. (2021) Three-year Plan on Drug Treatment and Rehabilitation Services in Hong Kong (2021-2023). Hong Kong.

    United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (2023) World Drug Report.

  • Becker, H. 1953. “Becoming a Marihuana User.” American Journal of Sociology    59(3):235-242.

    Brewster, D. (2022). Cultures of Cannabis Control: An International Comparison of Policy Making. Policy Press.

    Coomber, R., Moyle, L., & South, N. (2016). The Normalisation of Drug Supply: The Social Supply of Drugs as the Other Side of the History of Normalisation. Drugs: Education, Prevention and Policy, 23(3), 255-263.

    Duff, C. (2008). The Pleasure in Context. International Journal of Drug Policy, 19(5), 384-392.

    Linnemann, T., & Wall, T. (2013). ‘This is your face on meth’: The punitive spectacle of ‘white trash’in the rural war on drugs. Theoretical Criminology17(3), 315-334.

    Measham, F., Newcombe, R., & Parker, H. (1994). The Normalization of Recreational Drug Use amongst Young People in North-West England. British Journal of Sociology, 45(2), 287-312.

    Measham, F. (2002). “Doing Gender”-“Doing Drugs”: Conceptualizing the Gendering of Drugs Cultures. Contemporary Drug Problems, 29(2), 335-373.

    Moyle, L., R. Coomber, and J. Lowther. 2013. “Crushing a Walnut with a Sledgehammer? Analysing the Penal Response to the Social Supply of Illicit Drugs.”  Social & Legal Studies 22(4):553-573.

    Moyle, L., Childs, A., Coomber, R., & Barratt, M. J. (2019). # Drugsforsale: An exploration of the use of social media and encrypted messaging apps to supply and access drugs. International Journal of Drug Policy63, 101-110.

    Hong Kong focused Readings:

    Joe-Laidler, K. 2005. “The Rise of Club Drug Use in a Heroin Society: The Case of Hong Kong”. Substance Use & Misuse. 40(9):1257-1278.

    Laidler, K., & Hunt, G. (2008). Sit Down to Float: The Cultural Meaning of Ketamine use in Hong Kong. Addiction Research and Theory, 16(3), 259-271.

    Lau, H. (2014). Experiencing Risky Pleasure: The Exploration of ‘Chem-fun’ in the Hong Kong Gay Community. The University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong.

    Narcotics Division, Security Bureau. (2020/21) Survey of Drug Use among Students. Hong Kong

    Narcotics Division, Security Bureau. (2022) Public Opinion Survey on 2022 Anti-drug Publicity Measures. Hong Kong.

Part-time Lecturer

Dr Kate Lowe
Course co-ordinator and teachers
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