Govt. Site Covers Drugs For Crime Writers

By: Charles Bowen

Remember when writing about drug abuse was a matter of covering marijuana, LSD, and speed? Twenty years ago, who could have foreseen Ecstasy and a whole slew of “club drugs,” OyxContin, inhalants, performance enhancing drugs, anabolic steroids, and 57 varieties of cocaine?

Most reporters and editors assigned to crime beats in the 21st century could use a little guidance when writing stories about the effects of these new drugs on the body and on the culture. Enter Drugstory.org, a super portal developed by the National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign that links to relevant Web sites and online articles about specific drugs and their effects. The site also offers journalists an opportunity to e-mail specific questions to experts on assorted drugs and related health and social topics. The site is sponsored by the federal Office of National Drug Control Policy.

The Web page is comprised of three major categories:

* Links to federal agencies, nonprofit organizations, and related resources, each annotated with a brief description of what you will find there.

* Publications, with an emphasis on brief fact sheets and other user-friendly publications. Often the site includes the actual PDF file or document file for the publication, so you’ll not have to leave the resource to read the material.

* E-mail links to experts who can be contacted by journalists working on stories. The number of experts posted in a given section depends on the subject matter.

To use DrugStory, visit the site at http://www.drugstory.org, where the introductory page provides hot links to its latest additions. At this writing, for instance, the top page linked visitors to new congressional testimony on abuse of OxyContin, a Los Angeles Times story on the devastating changes in a teen-ager’s life after experimenting with Ketamine and coverage of a roundtable discussion on steroid abuse.

A navigation bar at the left of the screen offers fast access to assorted drug classifications and related material, including club drugs, cocaine, drug paraphernalia, Ecstasy, hallucinogens, heroin, inhalants, marijuana, methamphetamine, performance enhancing drugs and steroids, prescription drugs and rohypnol/GHB, as well as subjects such as underage drinking and underage smoking. Select any of the drug categories and the site provides a summary page with four subcategories: Fact sheet, general information, physical effects, and mental effects. Click on a subcategory to move to that portion of the file, where papers and alternative Web sites are described and linked.

For example, click on the “Physical Effects” section of the discussion Ecstasy, and you are shown studies by the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the Office of National Drug Control Policy. Elsewhere on the screen are articles with titles such as “Ecstasy: Goodbye Fun … Hello Depression.”

Other considerations for using DrugStory.Org in your writing and editing:

1. Need help with a story? Click on the “Experts” link at the bottom of the main screen to reach a collection of authorities on a wide variety of drug-related topics. The resulting list provides the experts’ names, positions, titles, and e-mail addresses.

2. Another way to explore this large resource is through the system’s Site Map. To reach it, scroll the introductory page to the bottom and click on the “Site Map” link. The resulting display lists all the features of DrugStory.org, in hyperlinked outline form.

3. The National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign was launched in 1998 by the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. The campaign targets youth ages 9 to 18, especially middle-school adolescents, their parents, and other adults who influence the choices young people make.

To see Bowen’s last 10 columns, click here. Previous columns may be purchased in our paid archives. Search for “Bowen” in the “Author” field.

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