Teens are engaging in a risky behavior that doesn’t involve sex, drugs, or alcohol – but is every bit as dangerous. It’s called the choking game and it’s a way for teens to get a “natural high” and a sense of euphoria. As the name implies, this form of teen entertainment carries some serious health risks.
How it the Choking Game Played?
The choking game is played when one teen ties a rope or piece of clothing around another teen’s neck to cut off the blood flow for a few seconds. In some cases a bear hug around the chest is used or pressure is applied to the carotid arteries in the neck to cut off blood flow. Once the person loses consciousness, the ropes or hands are released to restore blood flow – hopefully, before brain cells are lost or someone dies a tragic death. During the period of unconsciousness, a teen hopes to experience a sense of euphoria, see visions, experience unusual sensations, or have an out-of-body experience. Unfortunately, some never return from their “trip”. Of the ones who do, some suffer serious brain damage.
How Commonly is the Teen Choking Game Played?
According to an article published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, almost seven percent of eighth graders have played the choking game and almost a third have at least heard of it. Surprisingly, participation in the choking game is higher among females than males. Teens who live in rural areas, have abused drugs or alcohol, or who have mental health problems are also more likely to play the teen choking game.
What are the Signs That a Kid or Teen is Playing the Choking Game?
Parents should look for signs such as red marks on a teen’s neck, bloodshot eyes, a sense of secrecy, or scarves or belts tied to bedposts or doors. Not every teen plays the teen choking game in a group; some play it at home alone. Any teen suspected of playing needs education about the dangers of this practice – and requires close supervision. Some younger teens don’t realize the choking game is dangerous – that it can lead to brain damage or death. In 2008, the CDC reported eighty-two deaths directly related to the teen choking game. Teens need to know this.
The Teen Choking Game: The Bottom Line?
Parents should be aware of signs that a teen is participating in the choking game and make sure he or she understands the dangers. Good communication and close supervision are critical for reducing the chances that a teen will get involved in this deadly practice.
JAMA. February 24, 2010. Volume 303, No. 8