'Doctors Against Tragedies' Card Game Highlights Fentanyl Risks

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'Doctors Against Tragedies' Card Game Highlights Fentanyl Risks

By Paul Gaita 01/18/18

A group of Canadian medical professionals created a riff on the popular game Cards Against Humanity to help educate people about the risks of fentanyl.

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a group of women playing cards

A group of health professionals in Alberta, Canada have found a novel way to inform the public about the dangers of fentanyl use.

Using the popular Cards Against Humanity game as their model, they developed "Doctors Against Tragedies," which provides players with information about the risks of overdose involved in using the powerful synthetic opioid. The team of surgeons and anesthesiologists hope to introduce the card game to students as a means of informing them about fentanyl use without resorting to statistics or fear-based campaigns.

As part of its coverage, CBC News featured an interview with one of the Edmonton-based medical professionals involved in creating the game, Dr. Michiko Maruyama, who said that she had spent months researching alternative methods of informing the public about the possible dangers of fentanyl use. She eventually struck upon the idea of using a board game, and after researching ones that were popular with young people, she and her fellow game developers set to work on adapting Cards Against Humanity, in which players use a series of cards to either ask or answer a question.

"I looked at a game that already grabs the attention of users and how to use that concept of that game to bring about fentanyl awareness and fentanyl education," said Maruyama.

She received permission from the game's creators, Cards Against Humanity LLC, to modify the rules for the new version, and with assistance from other medical professionals across Canada, created two versions of Doctors Against Tragedies—one with questions appropriate for players 12 and older, and the other, dubbed "Horrible Version 18+," for adults, with questions closer in tone to the irreverent material in Cards Against Humanity.

Both versions of the game are currently available as free downloads from the Doctors Against Tragedies website. The team hopes to take the game to local schools to introduce teenage and college-age students to the dangers of fentanyl use.

"The focus of the campaign, really, is on young adults who may be using the drug recreationally and trying to give them good choices," said fellow game developer Dr. Cheryl Mack. The development team is also working on another game for elementary school-aged children called "MEDCRAFT," which draws inspiration from Minecraft.

Recent statistics show that as with many other parts of North America, the rate of fentanyl overdose deaths in Alberta has continued to rise steadily in the last few years. In just a three-month period from July to September 2017, 143 residents died from overdoses related to fentanyl.

Approximately 41% of those who died from fentanyl overdose had sought treatment for substance use disorder, mental health or pain in the month prior to their deaths.

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Paul Gaita lives in Los Angeles. He has contributed to the Los Angeles Times, Variety, LA Weekly, Amazon.com and The Los Angeles Beat, among many other publications and websites. 

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