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Farragher, Louise (2008) Online innovation and use of new technologies. Drugnet Ireland, Issue 26, Summer 2008, pp. 26-27.

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In April the Drug and Alcohol Programme (DAP) launched a new section of the www.drugs.ie website. This new section provides a discussion forum for professionals working in the area of drug and alcohol addiction.

 So far 125 professionals in the fields of drug prevention and education, research and treatment have registered to use the forum. A core group of regular contributors has begun discussions on a wide variety of topics including concepts of best practice, the National Drugs Awareness Campaign and early-warning systems. These online discussions provide an opportunity for professionals in the drugs field to share knowledge in an informal and constructive environment. The forum also harnesses the benefits of an online environment, the ability to work and communicate across geographic boundaries and the power to link directly to relevant resources.
 
The forum is structured under the following headings:
 
  • General Drugs Discussion
  • Research & Development Discussion (A forum for discussion on topics relating to research and development in the drugs field in Ireland)
  • National Drugs Strategy Discussion (A forum specifically for discussion on the Irish National Drugs Strategy)
  • Resources
  • Upcoming Events
  • Training
  • Jobs
This forum is the first of its kind in the drugs field in. If you would like to register to use the forum, send an email to helpline@dap.ie. Please include your full name, organisation, email address and telephone number. Staff from the drugs.ie site will then contact you to complete your registration.
 
 
Social networking sites
Other drug-related organisations are developing an internet presence. Prevention and youth groups have been developing a presence on the popular social networking sites. The Southern Regional Drugs Task Force has maintained a presence on the popular Bebo site since 2007 . The site provides links to the recent national drug awareness campaign ‘The Party’s Over’ and to the current HSE underage drinking campaign video.
 
The Fermoy Community Drugs Initiative Bebo site it was created in February 2008 and is maintained by Martina Munnelly, a community drugs outreach worker. The Fermoy site includes links to Cork-based youth cafes, news cuttings on the dangers of binge drinking and embedded videos of innovative drug prevention campaigns from Australia on the dangers of cannabis use.
 
The power of such social networking sites lies in their ability to create and foster online networks or groups of people with similar interests. Young people are encouraged to 'become friends' and join a network with groups such as the Fermoy Community Drugs Initiative or the Bantry Youth Café, which has 362 friends. Visitors can upload photographs, leave comments, add drug awareness campaigns to their site and create a journal or blog of activity.
 
At the international level, America's Truth campaign, designed to prevent young people from smoking, has established a strong presence on multiple social networking sites, including Bebo (16,077 friends), Xanga and My Space.
 
Customised search engines
A recent innovative development is the Addiction Search Engine (www.addictionsearch.net). Tony Duffin, director of the Ana Liffey Drug Project, has used the Google search engine to create a customised search engine which searches over 600 dedicated drugs and drug-related websites. The selected sites include the National Documentation Centre on Drug Use, EMCDDA, NACD, Drug Policy Action Group, Merchants Quay Ireland and a large number of quality international drug-related sites. By using the Addiction Search Engine as a first port of call when performing an internet search, you will find many more significant and useful results than you would by doing a general Google search. It is certainly a page to be added to 'my favourites.' 
 
The use of online forums, social networking websites and customised search engines by drug awareness campaigns, task forces and prevention groups is a relatively new phenomenon in Ireland. Many of these sites are built on openly accessible software or ready-made platforms such as My Space or Google Custom Search. As such, the cost involved in developing such an online presence is often low, but it takes commitment and time to investigate, develop and maintain the sites. Often this work is undertaken voluntarily. The use of these innovative technologies demonstrates a desire among Irish drugs workers to share knowledge and to provide accurate and timely drug-related information in a variety of accessible formats.
Item Type
Article
Publication Type
Irish-related, Open Access, Article
Drug Type
All substances
Intervention Type
Education and training
Issue Title
Issue 26, Summer 2008
Date
2008
Page Range
pp. 26-27
Publisher
Health Research Board
Volume
Issue 26, Summer 2008
EndNote
Accession Number
HRB (Available)

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