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The Epidemiology of Substance Use and Related Problems

1st term
Mental Health
3 credits
Academic Year:
2021 - 2022
Instruction Method:
Auditors Allowed:
Yes, with instructor consent
Undergrads Allowed:
Grading Restriction:
Letter Grade or Pass/Fail
Course Instructor:
Renee Johnson

Introduction to Online Learning is required prior to participating in any of the School's Internet-based courses. PH.340.601 - Principles of Epidemiology or any introductory epidemiology course including JHU undergrad course AS.280.350 Fundamentals of Epidemiology


Offers an opportunity to obtain broad expertise in substance use, substance use disorders, and related problems (e.g., injuries, mental disorders), from a public health perspective. Provides a strong basis for continued studies in substance use as a public health problem, and also offers knowledge that will be helpful in other professions, including medicine, nursing, law, social work, psychology, and others.

Presents an overview of the epidemiology of substance use and substance use disorders within a public health framework. Initially, we review how drugs are classified and regulated, and then we examine trends in estimates of prevalence of use and use disorders. Covers the most common drugs of abuse, including alcohol, tobacco/nicotine, marijuana, opioids, and cocaine. Included are lectures from those with expertise in specific drugs or areas of study within substance use epidemiology.

Learning Objectives:

Upon successfully completing this course, students will be able to:

  1. Describe drug policy in the US, including how substances are regulated;
  2. Describe the leading drugs of abuse in the US and their prevalence of use and health and social impacts;
  3. Examine the overlap between substance use and mental disorders;
  4. Explain key concepts in substance use epidemiology, such as tolerance, withdrawal, addictive potential, etc;
  5. Consider the role of epidemiology in informing and evaluating policy and public health interventions targeting substance use and substance use disorders;
  6. Understand a variety of approaches to prevention of substance use, screening and treatment for substance use disorders, and diagnosis of substance use disorder; and
  7. Be a competent consumer of substance use epidemiology research.
Methods of Assessment:

This course is evaluated as follows:

  • 45% Quizzes
  • 25% Data Interpretation Paper
  • 20% Participation
  • 10% Article Suggestion

Instructor Consent:

No consent required

Special Comments:

Class Participation, including viewing Live Talks (live or recorded) and discussion board participating (22%); three quizzes with multiple choice and short-answer questions (36%); a 1000-word research brief on the epidemiology of substance use for a population (21%); and a 1,500 word article summary (21%).