Two years ago, the RCMP in Quebec's Drug and Organized Crime Awareness Service (DOCAS) and Communications Office developed an app that would serve as a credible source about drugs. Since then, it's been downloaded more than 19,000 times on Google Play and the Apple App Store.
The free app, called Drugs and New Trends, provides instant access to information about a wide range of substances, how they're consumed and produced, facts and myths, how to prevent drug use and a list of contacts to get help by province.
One of the sections is for parents, says Sgt. Michelle Harvey from DOCAS. In this section, parents can get tips on how to engage in a conversation about drugs with their children as well as signs and symptoms that may indicate drug use.
"Our role is to protect people," says Harvey. "We put all of our knowledge into one app to answer the questions that people always ask us. The better informed people are, the better we can protect them and the better decisions they make."
The app was developed as part of a drug awareness campaign in Quebec. DOCAS had created several tools that were popular with their policing, health services and education partners, but the communications office suggested they extend their reach, says Natasha Karok, with the RCMP communications team in Quebec.
"We were looking for a way to reach out to youth," says Karok. "The app was our way to do that, but we realized that it gave us the opportunity to reach a much larger audience including parents, school teachers and media."
Nancy Bélanger is a police foundations teacher at La Cité, a francophone college in Ottawa. She uses the app in her classroom.
"I'm always looking for new tools to use when I teach," says Bélanger. "When this arrived, I thought it was excellent because I can use it to teach students about organized crime and drugs and their effects, and they can keep it as a reference guide — one that's in their pocket."