Monday, November 8, 2010
Meet Sara Bellum
It’s National Drug Facts Week.
Let’s face it: Most groups, movements, associations, programs, textbooks, and videos that attempt to instill an anti-drug message in our nation’s youth are lame beyond belief. From “Reefer Madness” to “This is Your Brain on Drugs,” adults have managed to inculcate one overriding message in the nation’s young people: When it comes to drugs and alcohol, you can’t count on older people to tell you the truth.
So, in honor of National Drug Facts Week, it is with pleasure that I point to the Sara Bellum Blog, maintained by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and dedicated to the notion that tweens and teens might be as interested in straightforward drug facts as anybody else. Here is what the blog has to say about itself:
The Sara Bellum Blog is written by a team of NIDA scientists, science writers, and public health analysts of all ages. We connect you with the latest scientific research and news, so you can use that info to make healthy, smart decisions.
Sometimes it can be hard to know where to go for the truth about drugs. Here at NIDA, we learn from science—not from rumors or gossip. We have thousands of researchers around the world who study drug addiction and come up with ways to help people recover and live healthy lives. Every day, scientists and physicians discover more about how drugs affect your brain and body.
You owe it to yourself to ask the right questions, look for the facts, and think hard about what you find out and what it means for you. We’re here to help you do that.
The year-old blog has been recognized as one of the top government blogs, and is targeted primarily at 12 to 17 year-olds. There is an “Ask Dr. NIDA” feature, and a National Drug I.Q. Challenge, which you can take here.
I scored 18 out of 20. But I nailed the bonus round, 5 for 5.
Articles at the site include:
· How Does Cocaine Work? It's Partly In Your Genes
· NIDA News: NIDA's Chat Day, More Questions on Marijuana
· Real Teens Ask: Do Many Kids in High School Do Drugs?
· Real Teens Ask: Can inhaling Sharpie markers make you high?
· Binge Drinking Matters--To Your Brain
· NIDA News: Back to the Future?
· Meth Mouth and Crank Bugs: Meth-a-morphosis
· Real Life: Eminem and Elton John
· NIDA News: Who Gets Fooled by Flavors?
In addition, here are some comments made by the blog's editor, Jennifer Elcano, and posted at Sara Bellum:
We thought it would be a good strategy for conveying drug abuse facts and prevention messages to teens, because we could tweak a blog format to offer brief and regularly updated content and keep it current and interesting. And a lot of our other publications geared to teens were longer or in book or brochure format. The blog allowed us a way to post short and topical items of interest to teens and also to elicit their instant feedback on what they were reading about, what we were offering them, so we could continue to adjust it as time went on since it was such a new thing.
Sara Bellum has a long history at NIDA and has appeared in a lot of our print publications in prior years. If you Google her, you can see some of our past publications where she appears as a fictional NIDA adventurer, scientist, and explorer with a big looking glass. She would be investigating the science behind drugs and their effects on the brain and the body. So what we did with the blog is basically update this character to be more of a “chic geek” type.”
I am really proud of the fact that we took a risk as a federal government agency in allowing a blog where moderated comments were permitted. We have fairly liberal guidelines, so we will only not post comments if they contain profanity, denigrate people or groups of people, or contain spam or link to outside websites. They are very basic rules mainly to protect the site’s integrity and the commenters themselves, who sometimes disclose identifying information that should stay private. I am glad we have been able to do this in a climate that tends to be averse to taking these kinds of risks.
Photo Credit: http://teens.drugabuse.gov