A Cognitive Intervention from the CETOP Project
M. Czuchry, T. L. Sia, D. F. Dansereau, & J. Blankenship; 1998; 184 pages
Implementation and Uses
Purchase a completed game pre-assembled
Purchase a manual (manual printed and bound)
Download the manual and gameboard for free
Research Summary and References
About the game
Downward Spiral is a sole survivor board game, developed by researchers at the Institute of Behavioral Research at Texas Christian University. The game provides substance abuse counselors with an innovative way to motivate clients and open up discussions about the consequences of addiction on themselves and their families. In a game format that resembles the well-known Monopoly™, players roll dice to move across a board filled with potential downfalls related to family, health, friendships, finances and self-esteem, which are described on game cards that players draw. The objective of the game is to stay alive, without losing all social and financial resources due to substance abuse -- a task that becomes more challenging the longer the player stays in the game.
Sample cards from the Downward Spiral board game
The Downward Spiral game focuses on the consequences of substance abuse on a person’s family, finances, self-esteem, health, legal status, and life expectancy (or lack thereof). Each player takes the role of a person who continues to abuse drugs throughout his/her lifetime. The last player left “alive” in the game “wins.” The game uses vignettes as well as facts and quotes to emphasize the consequences amassed in the game (see sample cards below). An after-game discussion helps focus the players on issues that have surfaced during play. The Downward Spiral game was created as part of a set of activities to motivate clients for treatment as part of IBR’s CETOP Project. The primary purpose is to encourage people to think about the consequences of substance abuse in a personalized but indirect format that looks, on the surface, like fun. With this format, players should feel no need to build counter-arguments, or establish their freedom to use, as can be the case with direct anti-substance abuse messages.
Several broad principals came into play in the development of this game (Czuchry, Sia, Dansereau, & Dees, 1997; Dees, Dansereau, & Simpson, 2006). Developers attempted to make the game (a) non-confrontational, (b) meaningful (realistic and relevant), (c) balance interest with serious issues, and (d) require active participation and interaction between participants on more than a superficial level.
College students who played the game and watched an educational alcohol video reported intentions to change their alcohol consumption behavior more than those who just watched the video (Czuchry, Sia, & Dansereau, 1999).
When the game was used in a mandated substance abuse setting with other treatment enhancing activities like "The Tower of Strengths," probationers rated themselves as "working the program" more than did probationers who received the standard treatment (Sia, Dansereau, & Czuchry, 2000).
The Downward Spiral has been used primarily to motivate clients in mandated substance abuse facilities for treatment (Czuchry, Sia, Dansereau, & Dees, 1997; Sia, Dansereau, & Czuchry, 2000; Czuchry & Dansereau, 2005; and Czuchry, Sia, & Dansereau, 2006). The game would be an appropriate adjunct to any substance abuse treatment, as well as treatment of other problems that may have a substance abuse component (e.g., anger management). In each case, the game could facilitate the realistic consideration of consequences of substance abuse.
In addition, the game has also been used with college students who have had their first alcohol or drug infraction. Testing with college students suggests that it would be a useful addition to standard substance abuse education programs. It might also be useful as a part of orientation for college freshmen. The game could be used as is or in modified form in educational, business, and clinical settings to raise awareness of the critical nature of substance abuse. Subsets of cards can be used to individualize the game for specialized populations. For example, if the population focused only on alcohol, then the cards pertaining to other drug use could be left out.
For more information on research implications, see the CETOP Project.
You may order the Downward Spiral game pre-assembed directly from the Institute of Behavioral Research at Texas Christian University. The cost of each game is $60.00 which includes postage. For more information and ordering instructions, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Printed and bound copies of the Downward Spiral manual are available to purchase. The manual consists of background and research information, playing instructions, and patterns to cut-out the cards and game pieces. Instructions are included on how to cut out the pieces from the manual and put the game together, including the gameboard. You may purchase a printed and bound Downward Spiral manual from Lighthouse Institute, a nonprofit division of Chestnut Health Systems
in Bloomington, Illinois. Price per manual is $20,
plus $5 shipping and handling. To order, contact the Lighthouse
Publications Web Site, phone toll-free (888) 547-8271,
or FAX (309) 829-4661.
The entire Downward Spiral manual (ZIP file), sections of the manual in Adobe® Acrobat® Portable Document Format (PDF), and a printable gameboard (also in PDF) are available to download from this Web site free of charge.
Before starting the download process, we recommend you look over the following items:
Item 1: Read Important File Information
You will need the free Adobe Acrobat PDF Reader downloaded and installed. Click here to download the PDF Reader. All manual instructional files, manual appendices, and gameboard files are available for downloading in the PDF format.
If you download the entire set of materials as a single ZIP file, you will also need a program to unzip the file, such as WinZip or MacZip. An evaluation version of this software can be downloaded for free at http://www.winzip.com or http://www.download.com and search for MacZip.
Item 2: Look Over the Available Files
The entire Downward Spiral package in 1 ZIP file:
ZIP; 21.64 MG/ 315 pages (Contents: Cover, Table of Contents, Preface, Chapters 1 through 4, Appendices A through G, and the gameboard files)
The gameboard only in printable PDF files:
(PDF; 144KB / 1 slide -- 21 X 25 inches, full gameboard size);
also (PDF; 73KB / 1 slide -- 8.5 X 11 inches, placemat size)
The manual in separate PDF files by section:
All manual instructional sections in one file (Downward Spiral Cover, Table of Contents, Preface, Chapter 1 through Chapter 4):
(PDF; 1864 KB / 45 pages)
Instructional sections also available in separate files:
Cover -- Chapter 1 -- Background Information
(PDF; 472 KB / 15 pages)
Chapter 2 -- Playing Downward Spiral: The Rules
(PDF; 432 KB / 11 pages)
Chapter 3 -- Setting Up the Game
(PDF; 827 KB / 9 pages)
Chapter 4 -- The "By the Book" Version
(PDF; 547 KB / 10 pages)
All manual appendices in one file (Downward Spiral Appendices A through G):
(PDF; 20603 KB / 145 pages; includes all the appendices PDFs below)
Appendices also available in separate files:
[Please note: For Appendix A Card sections, you will need card stock in green, blue, red, orange, yellow, purple, and white. For Appendix C Money Cards you will need paper in purple, pink, orange, blue, and white.]
Appendix A -- Financial/Legal Cards (copy and cut out)
(PDF; 2422 KB / 22 pages)
Appendix A -- Self-Concept Cards (copy and cut out)
(PDF; 2130 KB / 22 pages)
Appendix A -- Social Cards (copy and cut out)
(PDF; 2469 KB / 22 pages)
Appendix A -- Chance Cards (copy and cut out)
(PDF; 2734 KB / 22 pages)
Appendix A -- Health/Sanity Cards (copy and cut out)
(PDF; 12051 KB / 22 pages)
Appendix A -- Opportunity Card (copy and cut out)
(PDF; 1356 KB /4 pages)
Appendix A -- Death Cards (copy and cut out)
(PDF; 2081 KB / 6 pages)
Appendix A -- Recovery Card (copy and cut out)
(PDF; 1908 KB / 4 pages)
Appendix A -- Blank Cards (copy and cut out)
(PDF; 853 KB / 4 pages)
Appendix B -- Scoresheets (copy and cut out)
(PDF; 75 KB / 4 pages)
Appendix C -- Money Cards (copy and cut out)
(PDF; 1437 KB / 9 pages)
Appendix D -- The Rules
(PDF; 426 KB / 9 pages)
Appendix E -- The Downward Spiral Game Logo
(PDF; 388 KB / 3 pages)
Appendix F -- The Gameboards (an 8.5 X 11 inch “placemat” version on one manual page and a gameboard that can be assembled from 8 manual pages to full size, 21 X 25 inches)
(PDF; 4484 KB / 11 pages)
Appendix G -- “By the Book” Card Selection Diagram and Developers Contact Information
(PDF; 52 KB / 4 pages)
Downward Spiral is featured in the special newsletter, Research Summary: Treatment Readiness and Induction Strategies. (PDF; 431KB / 4 pages)
Czuchry, M., Sia, T. L., & Dansereau, D. F. (2006). Improving early engagement and treatment readiness of probationers: Gender differences. The Prison Journal, 86(1), 56-74.
Czuchry, M., & Dansereau, D. F. (2005). Using motivational activities to facilitate treatment involvement and reduce risk. Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, 37(1), 7-13. [Abstract]
Dees, S. M., Dansereau, D. F., & Simpson, D. D. (2004). Implementing a readiness program for mandated substance abuse treatment (pp. 28-1 – 28-12). In K. Knight, & D. Farabee (Eds.). Treating addicted offenders: A continuum of effective practices. Kingston, NJ: Civic Research Institute.
Sia, T. L., Dansereau, D. F. & Czuchry, M., (2000). Treatment readiness training and probationers’ evaluation of substance abuse treatment in a criminal justice setting. Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, 19, 459-467.
Czuchry, M., Sia, T. L., & Dansereau, D. F. (1999). Preventing alcohol abuse: An examination of the "Downward Spiral" game and educational videos. Journal of Drug Education, 29, 323-325
Czuchry, M., Sia, T. L., Dansereau, D. F., & Dees, S. M. (1997). Downward Spiral: A pedagogical game depicting the dangers of substance abuse. Journal of Drug Education, 27(4), 373-387.