The Choking Game is a misunderstood activity potentially causing death and suffering for families. It often begins with teens choking each other as a way to get high without the risk of getting caught with drugs or alcohol. It can end drastically with death or permanent brain damage.
The Choking Game is not a game at all – it is an act of suffocating oneself on purpose. Adolescents cut off blood to the brain in exchange for a few seconds of feeling light headed. Some strangle themselves with a belt, a rope or their bare hands; others push on their chest or hyperventilate. When they release pressure, blood that was blocked up floods the brain all at once. This sets off a warm and fuzzy feeling, which is just the brain dying, thousands of cells at a time.
What are the warning signs?
- Suspicious marks on the side of the neck, sometimes hidden by a turtleneck, scarf or permanently turned-up collar.
- Changes in personality, such as overly aggressive or agitated.
- Any kind of strap, rope or belt lying around near the child for no clear reason—and attempts to elude questions about such objects.
- Headaches (sometimes excruciatingly bad ones), loss of concentration, flushed face.
- Bloodshot eyes or any other noticeable signs of eye stress.
- A thud in the bedroom or against a wall—meaning a fall in cases of solitary practice.
- Any questions about the effects, sensations or dangers of strangulation.
What can parents do?
Be proactive and warn your son or daughter about this activity—young people often don’t know it can kill them or leave them brain damaged. Supervise him or her very closely, and check that siblings are not involved. Dispose of items that could be used for this purpose. Alert school officials so they can monitor the situation; often other students may also be participating. Consider alerting the adolescent’s friends’ parents as well. If you feel strongly that your child may be doing this, seek assistance by contacting our office.
Why do kids do this?
Some do it for the high, which can become addictive. Others do it because it’s “cool” and risky. Some do it for a combination of the two factors. Most kids who engage in this behaviour are active, intelligent, and stable children who think this is a safe alternative to drugs and alcohol. Most children have no concept of their own mortality and do not understand this can gravely hurt them.
Other names for The Choking Game include:
- Rising Sun
- Space Monkey
- California High
- Space Cowboy
- American Dream
- Funky Chicken