ASC5001 - Addiction science: A biopsychosocial overview - 2017

12 points, SCA Band 2, 0.250 EFTSL

Postgraduate - Unit

Refer to the specific census and withdrawal dates for the semester(s) in which this unit is offered.


Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences

Organisational Unit

Eastern Health Clinical School


Ms Dimitra Petroulias

Dr Michael Savic

Unit guides



  • First semester 2017 (Online)


This unit provides an introduction and overview to addiction as a concept and the factors that contribute to addiction. Consideration is given to the biological, psychological, developmental, sociocultural and environmental factors that may contribute to the development of addiction. It will provide in-depth consideration of theories of addiction and resulting models, and will offer critical discourse around the use of the term. Similarly, measurement issues for addiction and dependence will be reviewed and critically analysed including the policy and media uses of 'addiction' and related terms. The topics addressed will also include aetiological issues and developmental issues around substance use and the onset of problems. The concluding topic will be around the experiential effects of substance use and the model of 'drug, set and setting' with implications for the development of a biopsychosocial model. The assessments are designed to assess the student's ability to summarise and critically review the evidence and underlying conceptual models of addiction and the extension of the term beyond substance use to include process addictions such as gambling. The unit will also examine the issue of stigma and its relationship to language and professional descriptions of addictive behaviours. Students completing the module should be able to summarise the key theoretical models of addiction, issues around the utilisation of the term and related issues of stigma and have developed the necessary critical conceptualisations of addiction theory to undertake further Masters level study in this area.


Upon successful completion of this unit, students will be able to:

  1. Critique the premises and foundations for the biopsychosocial model of addiction in relation to alternative approaches such as the 'disease model' of addiction.
  2. Evaluate the biological and genetic bases of addictive behaviour for alcohol, illicit drugs and gambling.
  3. Consider and critique the rationale for developmental factors in the aetiology of addiction with reference to the research evidence base.
  4. Demonstrate use of the 'drug, set and setting' model in communicating substance effects on the individual.
  5. Synthesise the implications of the harm minimisation approach for understanding interventions and public policy.
  6. Present an argument based on theoretical and empirical literature regarding whether process addictions such as gambling should be grouped with substance addictions.
  7. Validate the contribution of neurobiology to our understanding of addiction.


Students undertaking fieldwork activity for this unit will be informed of the need to obtain written permission from organisations/individuals they work with and any related issues of confidentiality and anonymity.


  • Participation in online discussion (Hurdle)
  • Poster and brief presentation (20 minutes) (30%)
  • Review of evidence (3,500 words) (30%)
  • Essay (5,000 words) (40%) (Hurdle) This is assessment is worth 40% and therefore a hurdle requirement. You must reach a minimum pass of 45% in this item to pass the unit.

Workload requirements

Students enrolling in ASC5001 will be expected to contact the course coordinator regularly throughout the semester and participate in online discussion with fellow students and academic staff. Students should expect to spend around 24 hours a week of self-directed learning. This includes accessing online lectures, podcasts and resources as well as participating in forum discussions questions and quizzes via Moodle in addition to conducting offline independent study such as reading, research and writing activities.

See also Unit timetable information

Chief examiner(s)

This unit applies to the following area(s) of study