App for cocaine addiction

© Reporters

How technology can help people live healthier?

This is the question we tried to answer during 10 days, with a new UX/UI design project for the Wellness Institute. Our only constraint was to design a mobile app to support, improve or maintain people’s well-being. This app had to be an MVP focused on a specific issue. With my super teammate Kulikova Anna, we were both very interested to work on addiction because this topic combines mental and behavioral health deterioration.

To dig deeper into this subject, we conducted market analysis and we found that on the mobile app market, there are many apps for dealing with addictions to cigarettes, alcohol, marijuana, sugar, or even mobile. But almost nothing about hard drugs. Besides being a taboo subject, there are apprehensions because it’s illegal to use drugs (in France, 200 euros fine for simple possession or consumption).


Why Cocaine?

Of all the hard drugs, we decided to orient our secondary researches towards cocaine addiction for several reasons:

  • No mobile app about cocaine exists to date.
  • France is the 3rd cocaine consumer of Europe. Less popular in the USA, the cartels have targeted Europe to continue selling and France has been hit hard.
  • Cocaine consumption is completely banalized nowadays (by showbiz and politicians among others).
  • Paradoxically, it is consumed by young people in a festive setting, as well as by employees who are under a lot of pressure at work and have to hold out.

We also found that:

  • 20% of users become cocaine dependant.
  • In France, out of 41% of opiate overdose deaths, 13% are cocaine overdoses. And these numbers are increasing steadily in the world...
  • Qwit is a well-designed mobile app to quit smoking.

Now that we had our subject, we needed to find cocaine addicts.

Empathy for the addicts

📋 Cocaine addiction: quantitative data

On, we found a large community (33617 members), and we also signed up to all drug addict groups on Facebook to get a deeper understanding.

We shared a survey to know more about cocaine users with questions about their habits & consumption patterns, frequency, doses, professional field, age, gender, etc. We got very informative answers from 396 participants!
The relevant data are as follows:

  • Marketing is the working field most concerned with cocaine
  • 95% for partying, 31.3% for psychological or professional reasons
  • Almost as many men (56%) as women (43.2%)
  • 46% are aged between 22 to 24 y/o
  • 77.2% are hiding their consumption from their relatives
  • 35.3% want to reduce or stop taking cocaine
Survey result data visualization

Finally, even if the majority had no adverse effects, some told us about difficult tomorrows, loss of menstruation, weakness, depression, nosebleeds, jaw problems, and broken teeth.

🗣 ️Cocaine addicts: qualitative data

We interviewed 5 persons who helped us a lot by confiding in their cocaine addiction experience. Interviews were the most difficult step of our project because we were immersed in total empathy with people who have suffered or are still suffering, and their testimonies were sometimes very dark.

Strong quotes came out of our interviews such as:

- “My morning routine: Coffee, Cigarette, Cocaine.”
- “I don’t take it for pleasure but because I need it.”
- “I don’t see myself living without a filter.”
- “I’m cured of my cocaine addiction; now I take LSD every day.”
- “It destroys my life and my body.”

We’ve learned from all this that addicts do not necessarily want to stop, but above all, they want to be more understood and supported by society. It was not their addiction that needed to be cured, but the pain they felt.

A small synthesizing

We collected a wide variety of quantitative and qualitative data, which we put away thanks to the magic of the Empathy map!

Empathy Map

The 6 main pain points that we came up with are : the boring life without drugs, to keep the rhythm at work, self-esteem problems, cocaine trivial/taboo image, addiction denial, or awareness of addiction.

Say hello to Zoe

Zoe, 27 y/o, working in marketing.

She sees herself as the average consumer.
She takes cocaine several times a week, in a festive setting but also to integrate socially and keep up with the rhythm. She says she is sociable & self-confident, but cocaine irritates her and brings her difficult tomorrows.

Here comes our problem statement:

How might we help Zoe deal with the pace and pressure, fight the sense of “pale” reality, and gently change the denial of addiction into awareness?

The solution? Ideation

We did a couple Crazy 8 sessions with other UX designers. This creative exercise allowed us to come up with interesting ideas, which we reformed into 5 concepts of features :

  1. A consumption program so Zoe can see where she is in the consumption cycle and plan where she wants to go.
  2. A source of information (podcast, video, visual, text) informing playfully about effects, mixes with other substances, damages, or positive effects when you don’t take.
  3. A heart rate counter, tracking expenses, consumption quantity counter.
  4. A forum or a community of consumers to share tips and testimonials.
  5. A friends list that allows Zoe to help each other and send notifications to warn her friends when she wants to stop.
Ideation sessions: Crazy 8

Since our app is an MVP, we now had to focus on a single feature. To do so, we conducted a feature prioritization by asking our interviewees their top 3 and we choose the most interesting to treat as UX designers. We combined features 1 & 3 for our final solution:

A program to know where Zoe is situated in her cocaine consumption, and help her to reach her goals with a tracking system via an iwatch to calculate her heart rate.

User flow of our app

Zoe sets her profile and configures her apple watch for checking the cardiac frequency, then the app tracks her consumption and helps her to keep motivated.


Let’s make it real

First, prototype

For our Low-fi and Mid-fi wireframes, we designed simple prototypes, with a profile configuration page to enter his cocaine consumption, then a homepage with a graphic to follow his evolution in real-time.

Then, iteration

We conducted Usability tests and our users encountered several problems, which we iterated. Here are some examples:

  • A user got stuck on the configuration page, so we divided the questions on multiple screens to add more rhythm and facilitate the reading.
Iteration 1
  • The question “do you need help” did not come out enough, although it is important, so we added the help button to give support to users who struggle not to take cocaine at a particular moment.
  • A menu was missing to help navigation so we added a bottom navigation bar.
Iterations 2 & 3

Ready for the UI!

It was time to make it all more attractive.

A positive moodboard

We started by defining our brand attributes, which are reassuring, positive & rewarding, and created our moodboard, which we wanted soft, trippy, and modern.


A contrasting style tile

As we are targeting a young age range (15 to 30 y/o), we wanted to stand out with a cool & positive look.

We used color gradients to give psychedelic touch and bring colors to our user’s everyday life. We kept black as the accent color, to contrast with the background but also for better visibility on screens, especially if the user is on drugs.

We deliberately kept the pages very simple, with large components that users can reach easily and with a concern for accessibility for people with disabilities.

App design system

Finally, we chose Poppins type and reinforced its friendly aspect by using it lower case. The tone of voice is meant to be gentle and non-judgmental.

And here is the final result!

Hi-fi prototype flow

After downloading the app, we start with quicks cards about safety & medical information. Then, we set our profile with a pseudo & avatar (more anonymous), our goal, current cocaine consumption, and if we have other addictions. Then we arrive on the homepage where you have all your features.

List of features

  • An activity tracker to fill-up the cocaine dose, reasons of use, moods, and saving the daily entry.
  • A crash button in case of drug craving, to get playful ways to think about something else. Select a specific context (for example, you’re at a party, and you get the challenge to dance with a stranger.)
  • Overview of all the little victories without cocaine
  • The cocaine consumption program with a daily, weekly, monthly, or yearly progression
  • The economy button to see the money saved buying less cocaine
  • Cardio frequency tracker linked to an apple watch
  • A health trip with motivating ads during the program


What next?

Our next steps are to offer more personalized interfaces to our users (with other background colors or dark mode for example), to develop the apple watch feature, and to share our prototype with healthcare professionals to get feedback on the medical part of our solution.

Key learnings

To conclude, this project allowed me to develop my practice as a designer, but also to acquire new knowledge about cocaine addiction, and I loved working on this subject even if it is dark.
I discovered a discreet community that needs to be listened to, I was happy to be able to contribute to it and I would love to be able to develop this application one day.

Finally, I realized how much the role of a UX/UI designer was also to raise awareness on various subjects, even the most taboo.

I hope you liked my article, thank you for reading it. 🤍



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Eloïse Merian

Eloïse Merian

Product Designer @Foodchéri · Art Director/Graphic Designer background · · music & coconut lover