The Choking Game: Risky Teen Behaviors

Many kids have started playing a game called the Choking Game, the Pass Out Game, Space Monkey or Black Out. They shut off oxygen flow to the brain by pressing their thumb or hand tightly on the neck; tying a rope, necktie, belt around their neck; hyperventilating by holding their breath; or putting a plastic bag over the head until they get a floaty, tingling or high sensation.

It can be “played” in a group in which children choke each other or apply pressure under a child’s heart. It’s also gaining in popularity as a solo venture. The activity is addicting and can lead to brain damage, permanent neurological disabilities and has been responsible for a large number of juvenile deaths.

Signs to Look For:

  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Changes in attitude (overly aggressive)
  • Disorientation or grogginess after being alone
  • Frequent often severe headaches
  • Inexplicable bruising or red marks around the neck
  • Ropes, plastic bags, or neckties tied in strange knots
  • Curiosity about asphyxiation

What Parents Can Do

Warn your child. Explain that this “game” causes not only slurred speech, gaps of memory, sudden outbursts of anger, but also possible strokes, seizures, retinal damage, brain damage or even death. Be firm and serious in your talks. Most kids have no clue how dangerous this game is or how the brain is effected by a lack of oxygen.

Monitor your child’s bedroom. Do so especially if you notice locked or blocked doors and unusual demands for privacy.

Watch for signs. Blood-shot eyes, marks on the neck, asking about asphyxiation. Some children actually think this approach to “getting high” is safer than alcohol or drugs.

Get savvy. Many kids are doing this activity alone for the high. If the child loses consciousness and there is no one there to immediately release the pressure, he is unable to help himself. The child could suffer brain damage and death usually after three minutes.

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