Deadly game grows in popularity - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Deadly game grows in popularity

March 17, 2006

Albany -- Dozens of childrens' deaths across the country have been linked to a dangerous activity gaining popularity among adolescents.

It's called "The Choking Game" and parents and teachers need to be on the lookout for the danger signs.

Police, medical and school officials around the country are warning about the Choking Game. It's not new, but young children are dying because of it.

Child Psychologist Dr. Nick Carden said, "It starts around the age of 8 or 9 years old, and goes up to probably around 14 or 15."

The game is played when children, alone or in groups, choke themselves until they start to lose consciousness due to oxygen deprivation, then release the pressure, allowing the blood and oxygen again to rush to the brain, for a short high.

"What happens is that brain cells start to die at that point in time, literally, and they pass out," Carden said.

So many children have died from the choking game that web sites have been set up by grieving parents, warning about the dangers. Even when non-fatal, the choking game can cause permanent brain damage.

Dr. Carden said, "You can cause seizures, short term memory loss, brain cells die."

The warning signs for the choking game are suspicious marks on the side of the neck, changes in personality. Any kind of strap, rope, belt, or leash lying in the child's room for no reason. Headaches, bloodshot eyes, flushed face. Parents are warned if they hear thuds in the child's bedroom or against the wall like a fall, to be suspicious.

This fad is growing, Carden said. "It starts to filtering on, have you tried this, have you tried this, have you tried this, and it almost becomes a contagion if you would."

Dr. Carden says high risk taking children may think the choking game is safer than drugs or alcohol, but it can lead to permanent brain damage or death.

Kids have a number of different names for the choking game, including Blackout, Space Monkey, Flatliner, and Airplaning.

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