A European Masters in Drug and Alcohol Studies

The use of alcohol, drugs and tobacco has become a major concern for most governments throughout the world. This has resulted in increasing international collaboration to devise policies and approaches to address problems seen as caused by, or related to substance use. There has been an accompanying growth in research and in scientific publishing to provide an evidence base for action.

But what is the problem which all this activity is intended to solve or ameliorate? Does everyone think that there is a problem? Do doctors, anthropologists, economists, drug and alcohol users, social policy analysts, researchers, members of the business community and the alcohol trade agree about the nature of the problems and how we should respond to them? Why are there still considerable differences in the ways different countries think about and respond to the use of different substances – especially in the face of so many international agreements, international organisations and movements, the publication of numerous action plans and the growth of research evidence? These are only a few of the questions this masters programme will expect students to reflect on and debate from a multi-disciplinary and cross-national perspective.

Why is this a European masters? We hear a lot about the differences in drinking cultures between the ‘northern’ European countries and the ‘southern’ European countries. But Europe – and the UK itself – contains a vast diversity of drinking cultures, beliefs and behaviours. Could the UK ever become a ‘café culture’? How relevant are research findings based mainly on US or Australian studies to understanding the situation in the UK or in other European countries?  How appropriate is it for the UK to raise the age of purchasing alcohol to 21 or to encourage parents to delay the onset of drinking till 15 years? And how would such advice be received in Italy or Denmark or Slovenia? Partly because of language difficulties, we tend to look to research carried out by the major producers of the evidence base – the USA, Australia, New Zealand and the UK and to the international and European policies and action plans which are heavily influenced by this research. There are many questions about the evidence base – how it is produced and its effect on European policy and practice. Students will engage in a critical examination of the evidence base, its production, dissemination, use in policy and practice and its relevance in different political, social, economic and cultural contexts.

The focus on Europe does not mean that wider international and global influences will be dismissed as irrelevant. But it does mean that much greater attention will be paid to the understanding and knowledge about substance use, the history, traditions and cultures of use and the variety of formal and informal responses to be found in Europe itself. Students on the masters will have access to a group of European teachers and students and will have opportunities to share research findings as well as experiences and personal knowledge about their own countries. They will also have opportunities to study in partner universities or undertake placements in Europe, should they wish to do so.

Who are the partner universities? The masters is being developed jointly by four universities: Middlesex University (England), Aarhus University (Denmark), Ljubljana University (Slovenia) and the University del Piemonte Orientale “A Avogardo” (Italy). The development of the programme is supported by a grant from the Erasmus Lifelong Learning Programme. Once the masters is underway, students may come from any country and other universities will be encouraged to form links with the development group.

When will it start and how do I find out more? Recruitment to the masters will begin in the spring of 2010 and the first group of students will start in September 2010. If you are interested in finding out more, you can look at the web site www.emdas.eu or you can contact the programme co-ordinator:

Professor Betsy Thom at Middlesex University b.thom@mdx.ac.uk

*This project has been funded with support from the European Commission. This publication communication reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.

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