The “Tetris Effect” On Drug Cravings

Before video games became the action packed thrillers that teenagers and young adults know today, there was a time when video games were quite rudimentary. In the 1980s millions of kids and adults alike, either had an Atari or they wanted one. Today, there are few video games from the 80’s that young people are familiar with, but practically everyone knows the game Tetris. The game was first developed in the USSR in 1984, and a version has been made available for practically every video game operating system designed since.

At this point you, and perhaps Alexey Pajitnov (creator of Tetris), may be wondering what Tetris has to do with addiction? New research suggests that playing Tetris can reduce a person’s craving for drugs, ScienceDaily reports. Just playing the simple block game for 3 minutes at a time can weaken cravings by as much as one fifth.

Psychologists from Plymouth University and Queensland University of Technology, Australia monitored participants’ level of craving whilst playing Tetris at random intervals throughout the day over a week long period. The researchers found that playing Tetris affected the cravings for activities other than drugs, according to the article.

Playing Tetris impacted craving levels for:

  • Food
  • Coffee
  • Cigarettes
  • Alcohol
  • Sex

Playing Tetris decreased craving strength for drugs, food, and activities from 70% to 56%. This is the first demonstration that cognitive interference can be used outside the lab to reduce cravings for substances and activities other than eating,” said Professor Jackie Andrade, from the School of Psychology and the Cognition Institute at Plymouth University.

“We think the Tetris effect happens because craving involves imagining the experience of consuming a particular substance or indulging in a particular activity. Playing a visually interesting game like Tetris occupies the mental processes that support that imagery; it is hard to imagine something vividly and play Tetris at the same time.”

The findings were published in the international journal Addictive Behaviors.

If you or a loved one is struggling with a substance use disorder, please contact Pace Recovery Center.