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Downward Spiral: The Addiction Board Game


In an interesting twist on substance abuse treatment and prevention, researchers at Texas Christian University came up with a board game for substance abuse counselors. The game, called Downward Spiral, is similar to the classic game Monopoly. Only in this game, the spaces on the board are related to drug use. It’s an educational recovery friendly board game. They describe the game as pedagogical (relating to teaching or education), although it’s also meant to be entertaining enough to keep people’s attention in the way a brochure or lecture wouldn’t.

About Downward Spiral

Downward Spiral is a sole survivor board game. This means, there’s only one person left at the end. This board game is meant to be played in a group, making it useful for recovery community treatment programs or group therapy. Players roll dice and move across the board. They risk landing on spaces that require them to draw cards. The cards are filled with problems related to family, health, friendships, finances, legal status, and self-esteem.

Objective of This Recovery Board Game

The objective is to make it to the end without losing all of your financial or social resources as a result of substance abuse. The longer you stay alive, the more difficult the challenges become. The game uses evocative descriptions, facts, and quotes. These emphasize the points made throughout the game. At the end, the group is meant to have a discussion about all of the issues raised. The prevention model of the game is similar. Only the prevention one is geared toward college students instead of current addicts.

Whereas the traditional Monopoly board spaces are places and utilities, in Downward Spiral the boxes all correspond to cards to be drawn. These are labeled Self, Health, Opportunity, Financial/Legal, and Social. As an example, a card states a scenario, such as: “You aren’t invited to your sister’s wedding because your family is afraid that you will show up high on drugs again. Lose 4 Personal Satisfaction points. Lose 2 Family points,” followed by a relevant quote. There are also spaces on the board marker with skulls. This is where the player can die from his drug use.

How Downward Spiral Helps Addicts

People with substance abuse problems often have trouble understanding the consequences of their actions. Drug use can damage the parts of the brain that deal with logic. This includes problem-solving, and rational thinking. Downward Spiral attempts to provide realistic simulations of past, present and future situations. It also focuses on their consequences, so patients can discuss them as a group. On top of that, it develops a better understanding of their actions. It’s meant to be used in early treatment, after any detox periods have passed and the patients have become somewhat accustomed to their new environment or treatment process. The desired outcomes are the individual’s belief in himself to make changes and achieve goals, awareness of the effects of drug use, and understanding of the consequences of one’s actions.

Asking for Addiction Treatment Help

If you or a loved one need help with quitting drugs or alcohol, consider Asana Recovery. We offer medical detox, along with both residential and outpatient programs, and you’ll be supervised by a highly trained staff of medical professionals, counselors, and therapists. Call us any time at (949) 438-4504 to get started.