So, when I was a kid, I used to do this fun trick on the bus on the way home from school. I do not even remember who taught me, and, I cannot recall how old I was– maybe 6th grade? I can say that I was in one of the very back seats, so I had to be one of the older kids on the bus. I remember everyone thinking how cool it was that I could do it. “Teach me,” they’d say. Being a parent now, I am horrified that I ever did this, and pray to whomever will listen that my children never, and I repeat, NEVER even consider doing it. I can honestly say that I’m sure my parents never heard about it, as I always made it home safely, but I know if they had heard– my posterior would likely still be sore!! (Sorry, Dad.. I swear I’ll never do it again!! 🙂 Promise!) It’s been hitting the news a lot lately, and I feel the need to put the word out.
What is it, you ask? It’s called the Choking Game–only, when I did it, I don’t think it had a name– it was just.. ‘Hey.. Hey.. Look what Pam can do!! Show’em!’ All I would do is kneel down in between the seats and take a whole bunch of really fast, really deep breaths to make myself feel light-headed.. and then I’d stand up. And then, I’d pass out back into my seat. That was it, but everyone thought it was so very cool. I did, too, until I started passing out for real because of really painful migraines and would smash my head into things like the wall, the side of the tub, the door, or the floor. Needless to say, I didn’t perform my fun trick after that started happening.
The newest version of the game is, apparently, considered a free and easy way for kids to experience a ‘high’ without the use of drugs or alcohol according to GASP (Games Adolescents Shouldn’t Play). Basically, what happens is this: the child will purposely cut off oxygen and blood flow to the brain in order to achieve the brief feeling of the blood rushing back into the brain–the high. It causes a ” warm and fuzzy feeling” which the child views as a ‘high’. I can imagine that many people (children included) can compare it to the sexual fetish play of auto-erotic asphyxiation, where strangulation or suffocation is used to induce or increase sexual sensation and pleasure. The Choking Game is the same in that the participant will either induce hyperventilation, suffocate him/herself, use chest compression, or compress the arteries in the neck to achieve the desired ‘high’. Problem is, though, many do not have the strength or mental capacity about them after having cut off oxygen and blood flow to the brain, and cannot stop the process. Or, perhaps, they have a friend ‘helping’ them and the friend freaks out and leaves. This can turn deadly. Quickly.
There are no concrete statistics out there, as there really aren’t any groups to monitor the events, but, in 2008, the Center for Disease Control did release a report with some estimates (and many disclaimers) which stated:
Because no traditional public health dataset collects mortality data on this practice, CDC used news media reports to estimate the incidence of deaths from the choking game. This report describes the results of that analysis, which identified 82 probable choking-game deaths among youths aged 6–19 years, during 1995–2007. Seventy-one (86.6%) of the decedents were male, and the mean age was 13.3 years. Parents, educators, and health-care providers should become familiar with warning signs that youths are playing the choking game (2).
This report was intended to cover years 1995-2007. If you take a look at Gaspinfo.com’s statistic page, however, it shows 605 occurrences. Their statistics are “gathered from what we consider reputable sources but there could be errors and omissions.”
So, who knows what the real statistics are? I’m not sure. But the fact is, this IS an issue. Our children ARE being exposed to this.
And it’s dangerous.
Many kids, much like myself back in the day, may not see the dangers. They may not understand that every time they participate in this ‘game’, they are damaging brain cells, and could cause long-lasting damage, if not death. We all need to speak to our children about this ‘game’. Let them know it is not cool. It is not fun. It is not healthy. It is dangerous. Let them know to come to us if they know their friends are participating so that we can step in and possibly save another parent from having to bury their child. Make your schools aware. Inform the community. Do Something.
I know that I will.