Drug app helps monitor habit

Kira Weir shows off the app. Picture: Ian Georgeson
Kira Weir shows off the app. Picture: Ian Georgeson
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AN app allowing people to monitor their drug and alcohol intake has been a surprise hit with off-shore oil rig workers and those living in remote Highland communities, drugs workers have revealed.

The free My Crew app, pioneered by Edinburgh-based drugs charity Crew 2000, lets people log the amount of substances taken, triggers putting them under pressure and how much was spent.

A graph then shows the mood swings the behaviour generated leaving users to decide if they want to contact the project for confidential counselling.

Drugs experts say the app has been a success with workers who fear being disciplined for drug taking.

Other groups it has attracted are those on long waiting lists for drugs services and young parents wanting to tackle the situation themselves without alerting health visitors.

Kira Weir, information officer at Crew 2000, said: “It’s quite common for off-shore workers or people working on ships to be drugs-tested to a zero tolerance of substances. They can feel quite isolated and using My Crew can be a lifeline.

“We’re also finding it being used by people in remote areas where it is difficult to physically travel for counselling, and where there is a waiting list when services are over stretched.”

Ms Weir said the idea for the app came from clients. The traditional “paper and pen” diary recording drug use was problematic as the diary could be read by someone else or lost.

“The app is password protected and those using it register an e-mail address making it completely confidential. It also has a really small icon so that anyone looking at their phone wouldn’t know what it was,” Ms Weir added.

However, Margaret Watt, chairwoman of Scotland Patients’ Association, said the app should be complementary to properly-funded drug services and not used to “plug gaps” in drugs services.

“It may sound very ‘cool’ to be using an app for drugs but it is just the same old story of trying to disguise a lack of provision in the health service.

“There needs to be more joined-up thinking in treating alcohol and drugs problems and I don’t think something which largely keeps the problem hidden is to be encouraged.”

A spokesman for the RMT union, which represents off-shore workers, said drugs and alcohol were forbidden on oil rigs and platforms but did not want to comment further.

Jenny Marra MSP, Labour shadow health minister, said the app should be carefully monitored, adding: “Apps like these should never replace face-to-face support services, but as a tool to allow people to check and monitor themselves, it is a great innovation.”

A spokeswoman for the Scottish Government said: “Crew is one of the many organisations involved in tackling drug misuse which receives funding from the Scottish Government. They provide training and information to drug and youth services and alcohol and drug partnerships and their recently launched My Crew website and app is a useful resource.”