Many doctors unaware of dangerous “choking game”

By Tom Nordlie • Published: March 29th, 2010
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

When young people crave a sense of euphoria, they often turn to alcohol or drugs.

Sometimes they get their kicks another way, by depriving their brains of oxygen until they lose consciousness.

They do it with friends, by choking or bearhugging each other. Sometimes they do it alone, strangling themselves with neckties or ropes.

Youngsters call it the choking game, blackout, rush and many other names.

It can cause headaches, seizures and brain damage. If someone plays the game alone, the result can be death by hanging.

This activity is similar to auto-erotic asphyxiation except that there’s no sexual component. It’s just a way to get high.

And, unfortunately, many doctors haven’t heard of it.

That’s according to a study published in the journal Pediatrics.

In the study, researchers sent questionnaires to family practitioners, pediatricians and pediatrics residents in northeast Ohio.

About one-hundred-sixty doctors responded.

Of those, roughly one-third didn’t know about the game.

Among those who did, most had only superficial knowledge.

About half the doctors familiar with the choking game could recognize three or more signs that a youngster was participating.

Nonetheless, sixty-five percent of all respondents agreed that they should warn adolescent patients about the dangers of this activity.

Of course, doctors already have a long list of topics to talk about, everything from smoking to sex.

The good news is, the choking game doesn’t take long to explain.

So a few minutes of discussion might be enough to convince a patient that this game is not cool, not safe and not worth the risk of playing.