Course SyllabusSubstance Use and Public Health

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Substance Use and Public Health Homepage

This course provides information on substance use and public health. It addresses the burden of substance use disorders (SUD), the impact of prevention strategies, interventions and control programs, and ethical research practices in SUD care to ensure effective positive health outcomes. By the end of this course, students will be able to use screening tools to assess substance use disorders and identify prevention and treatment protocols to reduce the impact of substance use disorders within a population.

The SUD and Public Health course is sponsored by the Annenberg Physician Training Program. Like all NextGenU.org courses, it is competency-based; competencies were developed in collaboration with subject matter experts, and take into consideration Tap 21 Addiction Counseling Competencies from the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), which benchmark how curricula, educational programs, and professional standards are measured in the U.S.  SUD treatment field, the Principles of General Care (GPC) for people with Mental, Neurological and Substance Use Disorders (MNS) conditions developed by the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Mental Health Gap Action Programme (mhGAP), and the WHO and United Nations (UN) International Standards for the Treatment of Drug Use Disorders.

 The course uses learning resources from accredited, world-class organizations such as the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the U.S. National Institutes of Health, and the World Health Organization. The course was designed by Hugo Rojas, MD, MSc; Juan Jose Pemintel, MD; Leohrandra Graham, MSc; Margaret Niles, PhD, MEd, DipID; Valeria Reynolds, MD; Pablo Baldiviezo, MD; and Erica Frank, MD, MPH, FACPM.

 For publications on NextGenU.org’s courses’ efficacy, see “A Novel Integration of Online and Flipped Classroom Instructional Models in Public Health Higher Education,” (2014), BMC Medical Education, “Building Public Health Capacity through Online Global Learning,” (2018), Open Praxis, or on NextGenU.org’s publication page.

 There are five Substance Use Disorder (SUD) modules to complete, which include:

  1. Module 1: Introduction to SUD in Public Health
  2. Module 2: Identifying SUD 
  3. Module 3: SUD Interventions and Control
  4. Module 4: SUD Prevention Strategies
  5. Module 5: Ethics and Research in SUD Care


The completion time for this course is estimated to be 125 hours which includes 63 hours of didactics and curated resources and 62 hours of work participating in activities and quizzes to assist the student in the synthesis of the materials. This course is equivalent to 3 credit hours.

Upon completion of the training (5 modules), participants will need to complete a final exam”. The final exam will be designed so that participants can have three opportunities to answer correctly until the required score of 70% or higher is obtained.

At the end of each lesson, there is a practice quiz of ten to fifteen (10-15) multiple-choice questions. At the end of the course, after you’ve completed each lesson, quiz, and learning activity, you’ll have access to a final exam of forty multiple-choice questions, and a chance to evaluate this course. Once you’ve passed that last test, you will be able to download a certificate of completion from NextGenU.org and our course’s co-sponsoring organization the Annenberg Physician Training Program. We keep all of your personal information confidential, never sell any of your information, and only use anonymized data for research purposes, and we are also happy to report your testing information and share your work with anyone (your school, employer, etc.) at your request. 


Engaging with this Course:

You may browse this course for free to learn for your personal enrichment; there are no requirements. To register for this course, it is required that learners have obtained a college-level/bachelor's degree.  

To obtain a certificate, a learner must successfully complete:

  • all the reading requirements,
  • all quizzes and pass with 70% having unlimited attempts,
  • all case studies,
  • the final exam with a minimum of 70% and a maximum of 3 attempts, and
  • the self and course evaluation forms.

NextGenU.org is happy to provide your institution with

  • a link to and description of the course training, so they can see all its components, including the cosponsoring universities and other professional organization cosponsors; 
  • your grade on the final exam;
  • your work products (e.g. case study activities), and any other required or optional shared materials that you produce and authorize to share with them;  
  • your evaluations -- course, and self-assessments;
  • a copy of your certificate of completion, with the co-sponsoring universities and other organizations listed.

To obtain a degree, NextGenU.org co-sponsors degree programs with institutional partners. To obtain a full degree co-sponsored with NextGenU.org, registrants must be enrolled in a degree program as a student of a NextGenU.org institutional partner. If you think that your institution might be interested in offering a degree with NextGenU.org contact us.

We hope that you will find this a rewarding learning experience, and we count on your assessment and feedback to help us improve this training for future students.

Here are the next steps to take the course for credit:

  • Complete the registration form.
  • Take the pre-test.
  • Begin the course with Module One. In each lesson, read the description, complete all required readings and any required activity, and take the corresponding quizzes.

Required readings
    Optional readings
      Peer Activities
        Quizzes
          Assignments
            Discussions
              Questionnare

                Module 1: Introduction to Substance Use Disorder in Public Health

                Instructional Goals covered in this module:

                • Understand different models of addiction and the impact of substance abuse on individuals and public health.


                Required readings
                  Optional readings
                    Peer Activities
                      Quizzes
                        Assignments
                          Discussions
                            Questionnare

                              Module 1: Lesson 1: Introduction to Substance Use Disorders

                              Student Learning Outcomes:
                              Upon completion of this module, students should be able to:
                              • Define key terms associated with substance use.
                              • Describe different models of addiction.
                              • Examine substance use as a chronic relapsing disorder.
                              • Explain what substances are used and abused and their effect on an indivudual's health and social functioning.
                              Approximate time required for the readings for this lesson (at 144 words/minute): 3 hours and 39 minutes.

                              Click here to start this lesson

                              Required readingsOptional readingsPeer Activities
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                                        Module 1: Lesson 2: The global impact of Substance Use Disorders

                                        Student Learning Outcomes:
                                        Upon completion of this module, students should be able to:
                                        • Explore trends in the global burden of mental, neurological and substance use disorders (MNS)
                                        • Review the UNGASS 2016 position regarding the role of public health in addressing substance use disorders
                                        Approximate time required for the readings for this lesson (at 144 words/minute): 9 hours and 41 minutes.

                                        Required readingsOptional readings
                                          Peer Activities
                                            QuizzesAssignments
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                                                Module 2: Identifying Substance Use Disorders

                                                Instructional Goals covered in this module:
                                                • Describe the established diagnostic criteria for substance use disorders.
                                                • Recognize the challenges faced in public health environments in treating substance use disorders with coexisting medical and mental health conditions.
                                                • Explain the socio-economic, political, and cultural factors that influence substance use risk and resiliency among individuals and groups.

                                                Required readings
                                                  Optional readings
                                                    Peer Activities
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                                                          Discussions
                                                            Questionnare

                                                              Module 2: Lesson 1: Assessment of Substance Use Disorders

                                                              Student Learning Outcomes:
                                                              Upon completion of this module, students should be able to:
                                                              • Differentiate among the main categories of substance use disorder behaviors.
                                                              • Explore commonly used substance use disorder screening instruments/tools.
                                                              Approximate time required for the readings for this lesson (at 144 words/minute): 2 hours and  6 minutes.

                                                              Click here to start this lesson

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                                                                          Module 2: Lesson 2: Identifying the comorbidities of substance use and medical and mental disorders

                                                                          Student Learning Outcomes:
                                                                          Upon completion of this module, students should be able to:
                                                                          • Illustrate how substance use disorders mimic a variety of medical and mental health conditions. Detail the comorbidities that may develop with substance use disorders.
                                                                          • Examine co-morbidities associated with alcohol and other substance use abuse including HIV, diabetes, hepatitis, depression, psychosis, and reproduction implications such as fetal alcohol spectrum disorders.
                                                                          • Determine the special reproductive health issues for women in relation to substance use, comorbidity, and pharmacological treatment.
                                                                          Approximate time required for the readings for this lesson (at 144 words/minute): 4 hours and 27 minutes.

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                                                                                    Module 2: Lesson 3: Coping with risks associated with substance use disorders.

                                                                                    Student Learning Outcomes:
                                                                                    Upon completion of this module, students should be able to:
                                                                                    • Examine the strategies used to recognize severe symptoms of mental illness and substance use.
                                                                                    • Analyze policies and procedures for handling crises and dangerous situations with people who have substance use disorders.
                                                                                    Approximate time required for the readings for this lesson (at 144 words/minute): 2 hours and 15 minutes.

                                                                                    Required readingsOptional readingsPeer Activities
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                                                                                              Module 2: Lesson 4: The Social Determinants of Substance Use Disorders

                                                                                              Student Learning Outcomes:
                                                                                              Upon completion of this module, students should be able to:
                                                                                              • Correlate the social determinants of health to the risk of individual and group development and sustenance of substance use disorders.
                                                                                              • Analyze the factors that can contribute positively to individual and group resiliency to substance use.
                                                                                              Approximate time required for the readings for this lesson (at 144 words/minute): 9 hours and 41 minutes.

                                                                                              Required readingsOptional readings
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                                                                                                        Module 3: Intervention and Control

                                                                                                        Instructional Goals covered in this module:
                                                                                                        • Understand models of treatment, recovery, and relapse prevention for addiction and related problems.
                                                                                                        • Propose strategies to reduce the negative effects of substance abuse according to different states of change and cultural identities.

                                                                                                        Required readings
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                                                                                                                      Module 3: Lesson 1 : Substance use disorders treatment and relapse prevention

                                                                                                                      Student Learning Outcomes:
                                                                                                                      Upon completion of this module, students should be able to:
                                                                                                                      • Describe the components of comprehensive substance abuse treatment.
                                                                                                                      • Explain the models and effectiveness of relapse prevention.
                                                                                                                      • Discuss recommendations for public health interventions to promote treatment, recovery, and relapse prevention of addiction.
                                                                                                                      • Compare and contrast autonomy and independent living with the institutionalization of persons coping with substance use disorders.
                                                                                                                      Approximate time required for the readings for this lesson (at 144 words/minute): 4 hours and 57 minutes.

                                                                                                                      Click here to start this lesson
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                                                                                                                                  Module 3: Lesson 2: Intervention considerations in therapy and control of substance use disorders

                                                                                                                                  Student Learning Outcomes:
                                                                                                                                  Upon completion of this module, students should be able to:
                                                                                                                                  • Determine the effectiveness of psychotherapeutic interventions.
                                                                                                                                  • Examine the advantages and disadvantages of pharmacotherapy interventions as a treatment option for substance use disorders.
                                                                                                                                  • Assess strategies to minimize the negative physical and social impact incurred by the behaviors related to drug use.
                                                                                                                                  • Differentiate stages of change and processes to undertake behavior change.
                                                                                                                                  • Compare different intervention strategies for substance abuse.
                                                                                                                                  • Propose addiction interventions that are sensitive to different cultural identities or states of change.
                                                                                                                                  Approximate time required for the readings for this lesson (at 144 words/minute): 16 hours and 50 minutes.

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                                                                                                                                        Module 4: Substance Use Disorder Prevention Strategies

                                                                                                                                        Instructional Goals covered in this module:
                                                                                                                                        • Understand the role of healthcare providers along with social and environmental factors in the prevention of substance use disorders.


                                                                                                                                        Required readings
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                                                                                                                                                      Module 4: Lesson 1: Prevention stategies for alcohol, tobacco, and other substance use disorders

                                                                                                                                                      Learning Objective:
                                                                                                                                                      Upon completion of this module, students should be able to:
                                                                                                                                                      • Investigate the range of policy options used to prevent alcohol, tobacco, and other substance use problems in society.
                                                                                                                                                      • Summarize addiction risk and protective factors.
                                                                                                                                                      • Analyze the impact of policy and environmental interventions on the prevention of substance use disorders.
                                                                                                                                                      Approximate time required for the readings for this lesson (at 144 words/minute): 12 hours and 12 minutes.

                                                                                                                                                      Click here to start this lesson
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                                                                                                                                                                  Module 4: Lesson 2: The role of healthcare workers and social and community support in preventing substance use disorders

                                                                                                                                                                  Learning Objectives:
                                                                                                                                                                  Upon completion of this module, students should be able to:
                                                                                                                                                                  • Examine the role played by family, social networks, and other community systems in the prevention of substance use disorders.
                                                                                                                                                                  • Explore addiction prevention strategies such as social and community support, including educational, housing, and vocational support.
                                                                                                                                                                  • Describe the role of healthcare workers in the prevention of substance use disorders.
                                                                                                                                                                  Approximate time required for the readings for this lesson (at 144 words/minute): 12 hours and 1 minute.

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                                                                                                                                                                          Module 5: Ethics and Research in SUD Care

                                                                                                                                                                          Competency covered in this module: 
                                                                                                                                                                          • Be competent in addressing stigma, and promoting and protecting the human rights of those you serve.

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                                                                                                                                                                                        Module 5: Lesson 1: Addressng stigma in substance use disorder care settings

                                                                                                                                                                                        Learning Objectives:
                                                                                                                                                                                        Upon completion of this module, students should be able to:
                                                                                                                                                                                        • Define stigma in the substance use disorder context.
                                                                                                                                                                                        • Examine the impact of stigmatization, marginalization, and discrimination on SUD treatment /interventions.
                                                                                                                                                                                        • Compare the strategies to mitigate stigmatization, marginalization, and discrimination in SUD care settings.
                                                                                                                                                                                        Approximate time required for the readings for this lesson (at 144 words/minute): 11 hours and 48 minutes.

                                                                                                                                                                                        Click here to start this lesson
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                                                                                                                                                                                                Module 5: Lesson 2: Ethical Issues in Substance Use Disorder Treatment settings

                                                                                                                                                                                                Learning Objectives:
                                                                                                                                                                                                Upon completion of this module, students should be able to:
                                                                                                                                                                                                • Explore the general ethical principles that provide the basis for addressing concerns in substance use disorder treatment settings.
                                                                                                                                                                                                • Summarize the ethical dilemmas faced in substance use disorder treatment settings.
                                                                                                                                                                                                • Examine the relevance of the NAADAC Code of Ethics in guiding client-counselor relationships in substance use disorder treatment settings.
                                                                                                                                                                                                Approximate time required for the readings for this lesson (at 144 words/minute): 2 hours and 54 minutes.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                          Module 5: Lesson 3: Challenges in Substance use Disorder Research

                                                                                                                                                                                                          Learning Objectives:
                                                                                                                                                                                                          Upon completion of this module, students should be able to:
                                                                                                                                                                                                          • Summarize the approach strategies for research involving human participants in LMICs.
                                                                                                                                                                                                          • Examine the key challenges that impact substance use disorder research in LMICs.
                                                                                                                                                                                                          • Explain the importance of gaining informed consent of the person involved in the SUD research.
                                                                                                                                                                                                          • Determine the appropriate response strategies to the disclosure of private and distressing information e.g., self-harm, sexual assault.
                                                                                                                                                                                                          Approximate time required for the readings for this lesson (at 144 words/minute): 27 hours and 54 minutes.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Final Exam

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Course and Self Evaluation & Certificate

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              In this section, you can provide feedback about this course to help us make NextGenU.org better. Once evaluations are completed, you will be able to download your certificate of completion.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Click here give your feedback

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Course Activities

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