Master's Degree Program: Schedule and Curriculum

The IPAS curriculum is comprised of six content and two research-based courses/modules that can be completed over the course of either 12 months for full-time students or 24 months for part-time students. Due to the nature of the programme, courses/modules are completed in a specific sequence, and there are currently no electives available. The year is divided into four 11-week terms, with a one-week break between terms, and a longer break during mid-December through early January. The course sequence for the full time program is listed below, followed by a description of each of the courses/modules. Part-time students will take one course per term as opposed to two courses for full-time students.

Term 1: August to October
Biological Bases of Addiction (IDAS 600)
Addiction Policy (IDAS 603)

Term 2: November to February
Treatment of Addiction: Psychosocial Interventions (IDAS 601)
Research Methodology in Addictions (IDAS 606)

Term 3: February to May
Public Health Issues and Approaches to Addiction (IDAS 602)
Treatment of Addiction: Pharmacotherapies (IDAS 604)

Term 4: May to August
Treatment of Addiction: Critical Issues (IDAS 605)
Research Project in Addictions (IDAS 692)

Course Descriptions

Biological Bases of Addiction

This course/module is designed to provide an overview of the neuropharmacology of drugs of abuse and dependence, including basic principles of drug action as well as comprehensive coverage of the major classes of drugs (opioids, stimulants, nicotine, alcohol, sedatives, cannabis, hallucinogens). Students will study mechanisms of action, effects, pharmacokinetics as well as tolerance and dependence for each of these drugs/drug classes. The reasons for addiction including biological, genetic, cultural and other determinants will be discussed. Students will learn about laboratory-based methods used in addiction research.

Addiction Policy

This course is designed to provide students of differing backgrounds an understanding of the process by which international addiction health policy is formed and reformed around the use and misuse of both licit and illicit drugs. The course will look at the epidemiology of addiction around the world and the relationship between the burden of addiction and the corresponding effects of national and international drug policies.

Treatment of Addiction: Psychosocial Interventions

This course/module is designed to explore the scientific basis and treatment of substance misuse from a psychological perspective germane to the management of drug, alcohol and nicotine dependence. Students will have the opportunity to evaluate the principles of different theoretical approaches underlying psychological assessment and evidence-based practice. During this course students will develop a critical awareness of the current literature related to psychological theories of addiction. Students will examine the use and comparative efficacy of different psychological therapies in clinical practice including brief interventions, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and Motivational Interviewing /MET. Other interventions (case management, group work, self help, integrated treatment for co-occurring disorders etc) will also be examined along side the evidence base for Relapse Prevention, Contingency Management and Therapeutic Communities. Students will also have the opportunity to explore psychological approaches used with specialist populations such as young people and adolescents.

Research Methodology in Addictions

This course/module is designed to enable students to develop knowledge and understanding of the different methodological processes underpinning research in addiction. The research principals involved in hypothesis testing and estimation procedures will be covered as well as the generic skills necessary to analyze data and interpret statistical findings. Basic epidemiological study designs, policy analysis and inferential statistical methods will be explored pertinent to the addictions field.

Public Health Issues and Approaches to Addiction

This course provides an introduction to basic concepts and research methods in Public Health and Epidemiology as they relate to the study of addictions, as well as an in-depth consideration of the personal, social, economic, and cultural burdens/costs associated with drug and alcohol abuse and dependence. Individual and community-based risk and protective factors related to addictions and primary and secondary prevention efforts aimed at reducing the addictions-related public health burden are also a focus. An online lecture format featuring presentations by leading researchers and policymakers in the field of addictions will be used, along with readings, online discussions, and writing assignments, to (1) gain a greater understanding of the enormous costs of addictions at every level of society, and (2) introduce students to some of the current thinking and programs related to the primary and secondary prevention of addictions.

Treatment of Addiction: Pharmacotherapies

This course is designed to provide an overview of the pharmacological management of alcohol and drug addiction. It will cover the management of withdrawal from alcohol, sedatives, opioids, cannabis and stimulants as well as long term management of dependence on opioids, tobacco and alcohol. Additional topics include international perspectives on management of dependence, management of dependence during pregnancy and the process of medication development.

Treatment of Addiction: Critical Issues

This course/module is designed to enable students to gain advanced understanding of the critical issues involved in the identification, recruitment, assessment, diagnosis and classification of individuals who misuse substances. Local, national and international barriers to treatment (stigma, culture, religion, politics, legal issues, civil commitment, cost, attitudes and beliefs) will be considered. Students will explore and critically examine treatment options in special settings (for instance, prisons and the workplace) and in special populations (for instance, addicted healthcare professional, co-morbid patients, pregnancy).

Research Project in Addictions

This course/module is designed to allow students to participate in the research process. Students will be given the opportunity under supervision to complete a small research project. The submitted written text will be a minimum of 10,000 words in length, and is required to demonstrate a critical knowledge of the chosen topic area. The ability to apply scientific scrutiny to a topic related to aspects of drug and alcohol aetiology, treatment, prevention, public health or policy as identified by the programme team will be required. The research project may involve original data collection, secondary analysis of previously collected data sets, or other quantitative or qualitative research methods. The necessary defining feature is that the research project should demonstrate an appropriate level of academic rigor and understanding of the scientific implications of the findings of the project. Students will need to demonstrate competence in the integration and analysis of data to further the translation of this knowledge into more effective policies and practices, in keeping with the stated aims of the programme.