More kids dying for drug-free high

By klaatu · Apr 17, 2006 · ·
  1. klaatu
    Chicago Sun-Times
    April 16, 2006

    Across the United States, kids are looking for the ultimate drug-free high -- and dying.

    A deadly thrill called "the Choking Game" is becoming increasingly popular and claiming lives of children between the ages of 9 and 16, doctors and other experts said. Two weeks ago, a 12-year-old Glenview boy hanged himself, and a police official said it was likely he died playing the game.

    "There are hundreds and hundreds of kids that are dying," said Dr. Joseph Hageman, an Evanston pediatrician and author of a paper on the game. "It's just plain scary."


    # Unexplained marks or bruises on the neck
    # Red or bloodshot eyes
    # Belts, leashes, ropes, shoelaces tied in strange knots, or found in unusual locations.
    # Frequent severe headaches
    # Disorientation after spending time alone
    # Locked bedroom doors

    In the Choking Game, a child gets high by cutting off the flow of blood and oxygen to the brain, then releases the pressure to let the supply back in. With the blood vessels no longer constricted, Hageman said, blood hurries back to the brain, creating "an incredible rush" that is "very pleasant."

    It can be played in a group setting, with one person choking another, then releasing pressure as the person passes out. Even more dangerously, kids play alone using a belt, rope or dog leash.

    "It's not dissimilar to -- from what I understand -- the feeling you get when you use methamphetamines," said Hageman, also a professor at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine.

    The Choking Game goes by many other names: Space Monkey, Fainting, the Pass Out Game, the Black Out Game, American Dream, Flatliner or Flatline, Space Cowboy, Knock Out, Gasp, Rising Sun, Airplaning, and many others. Under any name, it always has the potential to be lethal.

    Death shocks Glenview

    Glenview police say they think it claimed the life of Leo McCarthy. About 10:24 p.m. on March 27, Leo's father found the 12-year-old choked by a guitar strap, according to police and the Cook County medical examiner. The parents performed CPR with coaching from a dispatcher, said Glenview Fire Chief Wayne Globerger. It didn't matter. The boy was pronounced dead at 10:59 p.m. at Glenbrook Hospital. The medical examiner ruled the cause of death to be hanging.

    The boy's family declined to talk to the Sun-Times.

    Glenview Deputy Police Chief Kirk Filipowski said he thinks Leo died playing the Choking Game. "It looks like that was the case," he said.

    "We're up to speed on this game. And hopefully . . . some parents will get the word out to other kids and hopefully prevent any future tragedy like this," Filipowski said.

    Leo attended Our Lady of Perpetual Help school in Glenview. His death has sent shock waves through the school, according to the father of one student. "There are some very upset parents," he said.

    According to Hageman, Choking Game participants tend to be between 9 and 16 years old. Many children who play it do so over and over again, in the mistaken belief it is safe because it does not involve taking drugs. The Choking Game differs from autoerotic asphyxiation, in which a person uses choking to enhance pleasure while masturbating. People who engage in that fall into an older age group than the kids playing the Choking Game, Hageman said.

    Kids who play the Choking Game tend to be "wholesome," Hageman said: "They get this rush, and they go to their parents and say, 'but we're not doing any drugs now.' "

    But the "game" becomes acutely dangerous if performed alone. With no one there to remove pressure from the neck, the child can pass out and strangle themselves on the strap they are using, he said.

    As many as 750 may die a year

    While statistics on the game are hard to come by, the Teen Choking Game Newsletter estimates 250 adolescents die from it or autoerotic asphyxiation each year. The newsletter's editor, Dan Baldwin, based the estimate on data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The annual number of deaths could be as high as 750, Baldwin wrote.

    As the game's popularity grows -- possibly fueled by the Internet -- the horror stories mount. Last summer, 11-year-old Coleman Noia of Springfield was found dead with a dog leash around his neck. He might have died playing the Choking Game, according to the State Journal-Register.

    Earlier this month, Maryland high school student William Bowen was found dead with a terry-cloth sash around his neck after playing the game. The scourge has given rise to Web sites -- such as -- alerting parents to the dangers. And "The Oprah Winfrey Show" ran a segment on the game.

    But doctors and law enforcement officials say more must be done to tell parents about this dangerous game. "We're looking into ways to educate the public," Filipowski said.



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  1. Nicaine
    Sounds like a hell of a crappy high to me :p. Blame this at least partially on the idiotic drug war... there's an innate craving in people to experience highs or change their state of consciousness (however you want to put it) and apparently people will even die for it. With such an obvious need, why are drugs illegal?
  2. Alicia
    How stupid can things be, Swim thought kids huffing glue was bad, now this. next you know head shops will even sell nooses so you can play by yourself. Its a great high after five minutes users would experience great spiritual experiences just as there seeing there life go threw there eyes in a matter of seconds, next part of the high the best and u dont even have to pic up after yourself. Just hang round (a sarcastic joke)

    swim agrees with nicaine
  3. Nagognog2
    Get the lil' nippers ready for prison once (if) they grow up and smoke pot: Take away their belts & shoelaces! Yee Haw!!
  4. Abrad
    This is nothing new, about 10 years ago SWIM was in school with some people who did something similar which involved hyperventilating for 30 seconds and then having somebody press onto their chest. This would make them pass out. SWIM remembers one day somebody split their head open on a windowsill while doing this and was taken to hospital.
  5. FrankenChrist
    Belts and ropes? Bruises? Closed doors? Sounds like the kids are getting into S&M. That's naughty...but how exactly does one punish a masochist?

    Think about that.

    I also remember similar reports from British newspapers (I don't remember how long ag or which ones, and I don't know how trustworthy these papers are). Apparently it was also popular at some of the rich kid boarding schools.
  6. Alfa
    That may be difficult after decades of drug propaganda lies. Who listens to corrupted sources?

    Why don't they follow trough with the retarded logic of the drug war and impose a ban on Belts, leashes, ropes and shoelaces!
  7. Nature Boy
    How dumb are some people. I don't blame the war on drugs on this occasion, I blame sheer stupidity. Anyone who would attempt something so foolish is asking to die.
  8. klaatu
    Not tough enough! They must introduce a ban on lungs as soon as possible before someone else dies.....

  9. IHrtHalucingens
    Just think of it as a way to weed out the idiotic before they grow up and do something that will hurt more than just themselves.
  10. upthebracket
    give them a hug?
  11. -k4ge
    When I was younger, I remember having this done to me. I remember sitting with my head between my knees for a good 30 seconds, then standing up with somones hands on either side of my neck pushing against a wall. It's in the group of things I call kid drugs. Other kid drugs being, Dizzyness, Sugar, standing on ones head then running in a streight line.
  12. Nagognog2
    "Rocking" was considered a sin and against the rules in schools in the USA - probably still is in certain districts. For a girl or boy to rock in their seats was considered a form of masturbation, or prelude to masturbation. Children would be punished with all sorts of things for rocking ranging from a trip to the school psychologist - to commitment in a state institution. And all points between. School teachers had the authority to determine the mental health of their students. Much like today they seem to decide if little Johnny and Suzie need schedule II stimulants because the teacher is boring the crap out of them.
  13. Alicia
    ah good old mental health so its a sin to rock does that en-vole back and forth on a mat? lol
  14. kemistudent
    More kids die from taking candy then we know..

  15. Psych0naut
    Darwinism at it's best .. and youngest ..
  16. Unsolved
    Dang why don't these kids use amphetamines it would be a hell of a lot safer then this game.
  17. Beeker

    "I'll be back"
  18. FrankenChrist
    Don't forget hanging on a swing on your stomach, then turning and twisting the rope. When it unwinds you get spun around and get dizzy.
    That was a lot of fun.
  19. snapper
    Wow, I gotta try that swing thing !
    SWIM remembers doing this when SWIM was around 8years old. Hyperventilate for about 30 sec, then block off both carotid arteries with your hands until passing out. SWIM can testify that despite the article, this is NOTHING like meth (which a young SWIM quickly graduated to by age 12). It basically feels like losing oxygen to the brain, causes one to faint. Similar to solvent abuse (which SWIM has never done, unless you consider GBL a solvent) with dizziness and passing out.
    This is what happens with prohibition. SWIM would prefer to see a kid smoke pot than sniff glue or strangulate, though from personal experience it is probably better that these all be avoided until older teens. SWIMs childhood was incredibly screwed up by drugs -
    Now SWIM is squeaky clean and thumps the bible (while rocking back and forth in a chair....).

  20. Swing
    SWIM see this a lot when he comes back from college to "visit" the highschool gurls... swim went to an e-party stocked full with highschool kids all doing that to themselves. swim lectures bout them cutting oxygen flow off but they don't care lol Swim even had to try one himself when swim was rollin and OMG it was fucking crazy swim'll never be doing that again.
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