Young kids are playing a dangerous game called the “choking game”. I hesitate to write the word game, because it is not a game at all! And frankly it scares me that kids are doing this. It scares me as both a health professional and a parent. They play it with little to no understanding of the extreme dangers involved.
If you don’t know anything about the chocking game, you’re not alone – 86% of parents have never heard of it. Most people have no idea how dangerous the choking game is until someone close to them dies or suffers permanent damage. According to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, at least 7% of Ontario kids have tried it. That’s over 79,000 students! And as many as 1,000 die each year ‘playing’ it.
Let me share with you a bit of what I’ve learned.
The choking game has many aliases, such as the pass out game, flatliners, space monkey, California high, knock out and the blackout game (just to name a few). No matter the name, it’s all the same. Dangerous!
It’s a strangulation game, an act of suffocation. Kids as young as nine years old are playing it. They do it in groups. But even worse, they do it alone. They cut off the oxygen supply to their brain by strangling themselves with a belt, rope or their bare hands. Some push on their chests or hyperventilate. When the oxygen starts to return to the brain, the kids feel a “high” sensation, they feel “warm and fuzzy”. For some reason, kids think that it is a safer “high” than drugs or alcohol. They don’t understand that this feeling happens because the brain cells are dying. This game attracts high-performing students and athletes as they feel it is less risky than trying drugs or alcohol.
What can you do as a parent? Your best defense is a good offense. Be open with your kids, talk about tough topics including this dangerous game. Try the following:
- Talk about the dangers (seizures, strokes, brain damage, death).
- Teach them that brain cells are dying when they feel that “high”.
- Teach your kids how to say “No”. Teach them to speak out and seek help from an adult if friends are playing.
- Talk about peer pressure.
- Talk about safe and healthy coping strategies.
Be aware of some of the common signs that you might see if your kids are playing the choking game:
- Bloodshot eyes
- Frequent headaches
- Locked doors
- Marks on the neck
- Knots tied around the bedroom
- Wear marks on bedposts and closets rods
- Disorientation after spending time alone
Start the conversation with your kids tonight. I did. Do you have any information or stories to share?
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For parenting information or to speak with a Public Health Nurse (every Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.) simply dial 311 or 905-825-6000.