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Teen Choking - Not Just a Game

An alarming new party game is occurring, where teens are choking or strangling themselves or their friends, to induce a loss of consciousness for a feeling of being "high." Teens know this risky activity by several different names, including:

    • Blackout game
    • Pass-out game
    • Scarf game
    • Choking game

As confusing as it seems, when a person is choked or strangled, the blood and oxygen flow to the brain is restricted or even stopped. This leads to a loss of consciousness. Once the pressure on the neck is released, there's a surge of blood and oxygen to the brain leading to a feeling of euphoria or being "high." As you might imagine, depriving the brain of oxygen and blood is not a good idea, and can lead to any number of serious consequences, including:

    • Seizures
    • Headaches
    • Blood shot eyes
    • Irritability
    • Falls
    • Broken bones
    • Brain injury
    • And the worst possible nightmare for any parent: a child's death

Unfortunately, it's normal for teenagers to believe that they are invincible and that nothing bad will happen to them. They are known for lots of risk taking behaviors, as many haven't developed the intellectual capacity to think through possible serious or deadly consequences. Teens just don't have enough life experience to know that sometimes the unimaginable can happen to them.

Parents and professionals need to know:

    • As many as 20% of teens in high school are choking each other at home or at parties.
    • They're using scarves, nooses or their bare hands in an attempt to black out or induce a euphoric or high state.
    • Health care providers should ask teens if they are experimenting with this or other potentially deadly risks during physical exams.
    • Some apparent suicides may actually be a choking game gone too far.

This is a dangerous activity that teens might not think is anything to worry about. They need to have the myths clarified, that this is not a game. It's a dangerous way to try and feel "high," and that the risks aren't worth any momentary and fleeting feeling and that the chance of death is very real.

If you or someone you care about is taking risky behaviors that are alarming or life-threatening, talk to them about the possible dangers. At Richard H. Young Hospital, our trained staff can help identify when an individual needs professional help for their risky behaviors, before it's too late. For more information on our services or for a free mental health assessment, please call 800-930-0031 or 308-865-2000.

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Teen Choking - Not Just a Game

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