Contemporary psychological approaches to prevention and treatment of harmful substances in relation to Legislation debate.



In the Reagan Administration’s ‘War on Drugs’, $702.8 million in the United States of America was re-allocated away from drug research, prevention and treatment, and funneled into hard line law enforcement. Subsequently, both research and treatment facilities cried out for increased funding to combat escalating levels of substance use and newly developed ‘designer drugs’, whilst marijuana production increased to such a degree that it has become America’s third largest cash crop.

A surprising number of researchers, authors, doctors, community groups, and families now believe that the hard line stance initiated by Reagan and continued all over the world (including Australia), achieved nothing toward decreasing drug use and production, and that drug use should be decriminalised, with funding diverted from law enforcement towards prevention (such as community action, health promotion and educational strategies) and treatment.

Policy makers face several important dilemmas when balancing individual freedoms against social damage. Your task is to discuss the legalisation debate and to examine the nature and effectiveness of contemporary psychological approaches to prevention and treatment of harmful substance use (i.e., primary, secondary and tertiary intervention) in light of this debate. Given the word limit of this assignment, it’s acceptable to focus your report on selected interventions.

The following position paper produced by the Australian Psychological Society (APS) might provide a helpful starting point in understanding the legalisation debate in an Australian context:-

Australian Psychological Society. (2005). Substance use: A position statement. Melbourne, Victoria: Author. Retrieved January 26, 2014, from

Please note that the *limit* for this essay is 2500 words. This word limit does not include your reference list; however, it does include in-text citations. On your title sheet, please specify the number of words in your essay. Many students find it challenging to adhere to a word limit, particularly when they’re enthusiastic about their topic. However, succinctness in your academic writing is a vital skill to develop. It’s worthwhile developing the habit now of being a disciplined (and sometimes ruthless) editor of your own work. Make every word count.


In this assessment, students have the opportunity:

To discuss different sides of the debates surrounding drug issues (in this case, the ‘War on Drugs’);

To analyse dilemmas concerning individual freedoms versus social damage;

To compare the basis of the traditional and contemporary approaches to treatment of drug related problems;

To describe recent developments in community action, health promotion and alternative education strategies;

To practise organising your thoughts in a coherent and logical manner; and

To develop the ability to present reasoning that is clear and concise.

Marking criteria

Students will be evaluated on the extent to which they:

demonstrate an ability to analyse dilemmas concerning individual freedoms versus social damage that face social policy makers;

demonstrate knowledge of both sides of major debates surrounding drug issues (in this case the legalisation debate);

demonstrate an ability to evaluate the importance of primary, secondary and tertiary intervention;

demonstrate knowledge of recent developments in community action, health promotion and alternative educational strategies;

use examples and evidence to support their argument;

display originality of content; and

adhere to the flow and organisation of essay structure, English conventions, and referencing style (APA 6th).

Grade descriptors:-

HIGH DISTINCTION (85-100%) – an outstanding degree of competence

Work at this level demonstrates evidence of:-

originality in synthesis at a high level of consistency through the argument;

mastery of material, that is, it is clearly understood, represented accurately in all its complexity, critically appraised, and used extensively and appropriately in the argument;

extensive range of pertinent sources showing evidence of wide, systematic, and creative information retrieval;

effective use of persuasive and interesting composition; and

thought provoking ideas: The marker is offered fresh insights into his/her own thinking about the topic.

DISTINCTION (75 – 84%) – a high degree of competence

Work at this level demonstrates evidence of:-

knowledge of relevant theories, concepts, ideas and these are presented accurately and systematically;

incisive critical comment on the literature;

use of a wide range of resources;

stylish composition; and

sustained arguments and linkage of empirical detail with theoretical perspectives.

CREDIT (65 – 74%) – a good level of competence

Work at this level demonstrates evidence of:-

recognition and description of concepts and theories;

some useful insights;

use of a reasonable array of sources in light of the nature of the task;

clear writing; and

a coherent argument which is focused but could be improved.

PASS (50-64%) – a satisfactory level of competence

At this level, students demonstrate:-

an awareness of concepts and theories without explicitly explaining or applying them;

work that is descriptive rather than theoretical and analytical;

work that is derived from a limited range of resources; and

work that is readable and coherent.

FAIL (below 50%) – an unsatisfactory level of competence

At this level, students have not met the minimum requirements for a pass. For example, the student may:-

demonstrate little or no understanding of issues or concepts;

demonstrate a misunderstanding of the topic;

include irrelevant material;

demonstrate major error of focus;

demonstrate reliance on few resources; and

submit incomplete or unreadable work.


Essay to be presented in APA Style.

This next bit is the additional comments

Referenced material to be as current as possible preferably no later than 2000 Unless establishing historical context.

The majority of references used to be available through the Charles Sturt University Site (if possible)

Please consider the following references

Ministerial Council on Drug Strategy. (2011). The National Drug Strategy 2010-2015. Canberra: Author.

Document URL:

Bammer, G., Hall, W., Hamilton, M., & Ali, R. (2002). Harm minimization in a prohibition context – Australia. Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 582, 80-93. doi: 10.2307/1049735

Document URL:

Dusenbury, L., & Falco, M. (1995). Eleven components of effective drug abuse prevention curricula. The Journal of School Health, 65, 420-425.

Document URL:

National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA). (2003). Preventing drug use among children and adolescents: A research based guide for parents, educators and community leaders (2nd ed.). NIH publication No 04-4212(A). Bethesda, Maryland: U.S Department of Health and Human Resources.

Document URL:

Miller, M. (2009). Evaluation and monitoring of the National Drug Strategy 2004-2009: Final report (Volume 1). Retrieved from

Note: This is another large document. Start with the Executive Summary and Chapter 5 (Outcomes of NDS Programs) as these are the most relevant to Week 11’s topic.


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