The Choking Game: A 'New' Trend That's Killing Our Kids

Photo: ZoofyTheJi/

In the car this morning, I heard a story on NPR about a "new" trend among kids and teens that comes with some pretty dangerous consequences. It's called the choking game, and I'm here to tell you that this "game" is not fun, it's not cool, and it certainly isn't new.

The idea behind the choking game is that you actually try to choke yourself, either with a belt, a scarf, or a rope, or with the help of a "friends" hands. The rumor that gets passed from kid to kid is that this game is a safe, cheap and easy way to get high.

I tried the choking game my freshman year of college. This was more than 20 years ago. And I can say with full authority that of all the stupid things I did in my younger years, this was by far the stupidest — and the scariest. The memory of that evening has stayed with me for more than two decades. It's not one I like to think about.

So here's what happens: As you choke, your brain is deprived of oxygen, which makes you feel lightheaded. Your vision gets cloudy or blanks out all together. When the choke is released, you might get a "rush" as the oxygen is restored to your brain. Or, if you're like me, you wake up convulsing on the floor. I can still clearly remember how much my throat hurt and my head throbbed, and how scared I had been for those few brief minutes when I couldn't remember why I was seizing on the floor. Talk about a buzz kill.

What's even more frightening to think about is that I was one of the lucky ones who played this game and lived to tell about it. The NPR story details the horror of kids as young as 12 trying the choking game. And many are not so lucky.

According to the NPR report, a 2008 national estimate put the death toll from the choking game at about 82 kids between 1995 and 2007. Kids who don't die still kill off a little bit of their brain each time they give this game a try.

Before this morning, I had no idea that this "game" was still around or that it had become the latest trend among kids and teens. Sadly, most of the parents who have lost children to this game said that they had no idea that it even existed.

So be on the lookout for tell-tale signs (bruises on the neck, scarves tied around the bedpost, a bent closet rod,) and even if you don't see any, talk to your child about the dangers of the choking game.

Trust me, this is not a game that you ever want your kids to play.