Doctors Against Tragedies educational card game

The Official Board Game of the Opioid Crisis

With approval from the makers of Cards Against Humanity, doctors are taking a new approach to educating at-risk young people.


Fentanyl, an opioid a hundred times more potent than heroin, is increasingly finding its way into street drugs. And because a dose the size of a grain of sand is enough to kill you, accidental overdosing has skyrocketed, triggering a public health crisis.

But what’s the best way to reach the teenagers and young adults who are most at risk?

Michiko Maruyama, a third-year cardiac surgery resident at the University of Alberta, reached out to an unlikely partner in the quest to educate drug users on the risks of fentanyl: the makers of the popular off-colour party game Cards Against Humanity.

With their blessing, Maruyama worked with other doctors at her university to produce an educational version of the game called Doctors Against Tragedies. The game (free to download and print for yourself here) borrows the same dark humour as the original, aiming to reach groups most at risk of opioid overdose in a way that speaks to them.

The team also produced a multiple-choice all-ages version for younger players.

With the goal of informing players, and not shaming or scaring them, it gives people a fun and interactive way to learn more about fentanyl.

Part of the heart and lung transplant team, Maruyama was moved to take an active role in fighting the fentanyl crisis when she started noticing a spike in the number of young organ donors who had died from an overdose.

“It’s quite emotional,” said Maruyama in a statement. “We’re very thankful that the family of the teenager or young adult has donated their organs, but at the same time, it’s very hard for us to harvest the organs of someone who was otherwise healthy but made one unfortunate decision that led to their death.”

Over 200 doctors participated in reviewing the game for accuracy and clarity. Scattered across the deck are general facts about opioids, as well as contact information for helplines and other overdose prevention services.

Maruyama is already distributing free decks of cards to pubs, cafes, and restaurants in hopes of starting impromptu discussions around fentanyl. By generating discussion, her goal is to create a more memorable impression than a simple public health notice posted around campus.

The simple act of opening a dialogue between friends could be enough to save lives. With overdoses on the rise, it is becoming increasingly important for drug users not to use alone: a friend and a naloxone kit could keep someone alive long enough to seek medical help.

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Karyn Ho is a science animator and engineer who thrives at the interface between science, engineering, medicine, and art. She earned her MScBMC (biomedical communications) and PhD (chemical engineering and biomedical engineering) at the University of Toronto. Karyn is passionate about using cutting edge discoveries to create dynamic stories as a way of supporting innovation, collaboration, education, and informed decision making. By translating knowledge into narratives, her vision is to captivate people, spark their curiosity, and motivate them to share what they learned.