Warning! This unit contains mature content and may not be suitable for some students. Any student under the age of 16 who would like to enrol in this unit must first complete a Parental Consent Form.

Subject details

At the completion of this subject students will be able to:

  1. acquire a basic understanding of the pharmacology of legal and illicit drugs, and the physical, psychological and social aspects of addiction
  2. gain familiarity with ethnographic approaches to the study of drug use
  3. understand the impact of broad social, political and economic forces on drug use and on social perceptions of drugs
  4. clarify the student’s own position on drugs, allowing informed and responsible decisions about social policies and strategies relating to drug use
  5. apply and adapt anthropological knowledge to real world issues.
    • Introduction to the unit - Drugs, pharmaceuticals and anthropology
    • Ethnographies of drug use
    • Pharmacology, drug use and drug addiction
    • Ethnographies of injecting drug use
    • Alcohol and Aboriginal Australia
    • Sacred tobacco in Native America
    • Commercial tobacco: the European vector
    • From tears to hope: a family perspective on drugs
    • Political economy of opiates
    • Political economy of cocaine
    • The war on drugs
    • Drug policy reform
    • Cannabis
    • Hallucinogens in the West
    • Hallucinogens in non-Western societies
    • Pharmaceuticals and drug trials - Viagra
    • Pharmaceuticals - Emergency contraception
  • Study resources

    • Instructional methods

      • Discussion forum/Discussion Board
      • Online Quizzes/Tests
      • Standard Media
    • Online materials

      • Resources and Links

Equivalent subjects

You cannot enrol in this subject if you have successfully completed any of the following subject(s) because they are considered academically equivalent:

  • MAQ-ANT110


If you have no prior university experience, you should complete BAR100 Academic Learning Skills or COM10006 Academic Literacies: Learning and Communication Practice before starting this subject.

Special requirements

No special requirements

This subject was previously known as ANT110 Drugs Across Cultures.

Using anthropological and ethnographic studies, this subject focuses mainly on the social and cultural contexts of drug use, both legal and illegal. The subject is also concerned with economic and political factors influencing the production and distribution of drugs and the way in which these processes are enmeshed in a global economy.

Topics include: the international traffic in opium/heroin and cocaine in the Golden Triangle of mainland South-east Asia and in South America and the way this traffic intermeshes with regional politics and local tribal, peasant and commercial systems of production and exchange; the social history of drugs in the US, UK and Australia; youth culture and drugs in the West; AIDS and intravenous drug use; addiction and treatment; drugs and the law; the global political economy of pharmaceuticals, particularly contraceptives, erectile dysfunction drugs, antiretrovirals in the age of AIDS; and the placebo effect.

  • Essay (40%)
  • Non-Invigilated Exam (40%)
  • Quiz 1 (5%)
  • Quiz 2 (15%)

Textbooks are not required.

Textbook information is pending.

Related degrees

undergraduate MAQ-ART-DEG-2019

Bachelor of Arts

  • Major in Ancient History
  • Major in English
  • Major in Modern History
  • Major in Philosophy
  • Major in Politics
  • Major in Society and Culture
  • Major in Sociology
  • Major in Creative Writing