Friday, February 15, 2008

The Choking Game

Some of us remember this from when we were in junior high or high school. With our friends, we would try to choke ourselves with our hands, to get a dizzy feeling or even to make ourselves faint. We were probably chastised by our teachers for playing this dangerous game, and warned that somewhere in the world, some kids had actually died from it. But did that stop us from playing it? Probably not.
Kids are still playing the "choking game." But in recent years, the game has taken on a more dangerous twist. In addition to doing this with friends, kids are doing this alone, in their rooms or in other places where nobody can see them. And instead of just using their hands, they've taken to using nooses made from belts, ropes, scarves, dog leashes, bungee cords, etc. Nooses create a much stronger choke-hold than just hands, especially if one end is tied to a stable object like a doorknob or bedpost.
The danger is especially serious for kids who try this all alone. Kids tend to start playing this game in groups, and enjoy the euphoric "high" feeling so much that they try to induce that feeling at home on their own. But when they do it on their own, and they're using a noose, there is nobody around to get the noose off of them if things start to go wrong. This is how many kids have died. Kids who survive can also end up with brain damage, seizure disorders, and other disabilities caused by stopping oxygen from entering the brain.
The average age of kids who play this game is 13, but players as young as 6 have been reported. Typically, the kids who play this game are high-achieving kids who would probably not risk trying actual drugs, but who start playing the game because they're curious about the "high" it involves. Unlike using actual drugs or alcohol, most kids haven't already been bombarded with information about the dangers of this game. They may have heard a story or two about it, but believe they're just urban legends, or that it couldn't possibly happen to them. Kids also believe that, because they are the ones doing this to themselves, they can control it and stop it before anything bad happens. But once a kid becomes dizzy and passes out, they can't control what happens next.
Some parents whose children died playing this game have created an organization called Games Adolescents Shouldn't Play. You can check out the website for more info about the Choking Game, stories and statistics, and ways you can prevent this from happening to the kids in your life.

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