"˜Choking' Game Deaths on the Rise!

Submitted by SadInAmerica on Wed, 03/26/2008 - 6:55pm.

At least 82 children have died in recent years as a result of playing the "choking" game, a bizarre but increasingly common practice, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The game, which involves intentionally trying to choke oneself to create a brief high, has been around for years, but it appears to be spreading. One theory is that the Internet has made it easier for kids to learn about the game. A search of YouTube turns up several videos warning about the practice, but also several troubling demonstrations by giggling adolescents showing how to play.

The deaths identified by the C.D.C. are based on media reports of the game over the past decade, but more than 60 of the deaths have occurred since 2005. The agency says the number of deaths is probably understated, and other experts agree, noting that choking game deaths, which involve accidental strangulation with a rope or belt, often look like suicides.

The Web site GASP, which stands for Games Adolescents Shouldn't Play, reports that 65 children died in 2007 alone. Mark Lepore, an assistant professor of counseling psychology at Chatham College in Pittsburgh, told The Houston Press last year that he believed 1,800 people in the United States had died playing the game in the past 10 years; most were children and teenagers.

The C.D.C. reports that most adults haven't even heard of the choking game and have no idea their kids are playing it. Most of the deaths were among boys ages 11 to 16, and the average age was 13, the report said. Choking game deaths were identified in 31 states. "Because most parents in the study had not heard of the choking game, we hope to raise awareness of the choking game among parents, health care providers, and educators, so they can recognize warning signs of the activity," said Robin L. Toblin, the study's lead author. "This is especially important because children themselves may not appreciate the dangers of this activity."

The game can be played in a variety of ways, but the goal is to deprive the brain of oxygen long enough to create a feeling of euphoria before passing out. Children may use their hands to squeeze the necks of friends, or they may use computer cord, scarves or ropes. In another version, kids bend down and try to induce hyperventilation by taking deep breaths followed by a "bear hug" from a friend. The game is not the same thing as autoerotic asphyxiation, another risky behavior that tends to be practiced by older teens and adults, in which masturbation and asphyxia are combined to achieve a more powerful orgasm.

In addition to discussing the dangers of the game with their children, parents should look for signs that kids may be playing. The game has several aliases. Parents should listen for names like Blackout, Flatliner, Fainting Game, California Choke, Dream Game, Airplaning, Suffocation Roulette, Space Cowboy and the Pass-Out Game.

Signs that a child may be engaging in the choking game include bloodshot eyes; marks on the neck; severe headaches; disorientation after spending time alone; ropes, scarves and belts tied to bedroom furniture or doorknobs or found knotted on the floor; or the unexplained presence of things like dog leashes, choke collars and bungee cords.

To learn more, read the full Houston Press story from April here. Or visit the GASP Web site here.

by Tara Parker  Pope - February 14, 2008 - posted at http://well.blogs.nytimes.com

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Submitted by SadInAmerica on Wed, 03/26/2008 - 6:55pm.