The Choking Game

Teens getting high from intentional asphyxiation may not know the risks

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Chris Galloway, M.D.

(RxWiki News) Reports from the US and Canada show that adolescents are experimenting with the ‘choking game’. Creating awareness of brain damage and accidental death may curb an adolescent's interest.

It appears the choking game has been spreading across the nation for a few years.

A recent study assessed the choking game in Oregon’s eighth grade population.  Researchers suggested spreading awareness of the risks and dangers to put an end to it. 

"Talk to your kids about choking risks."

Kenneth D. Rosenberg, MD, MPH, Robert J. Nystrom, MA, and Sarah K. Ramowski, MSW, from the Oregon Health Authority of the Public Health Division, teamed up with Julie Gilchrist, MD, and Nigel R. Chaumeton, PhD, from the Division of Unintentional Injury Prevention at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to look at the risks involved when eighth graders play the choking game.

The choking game is pretty simple. An individual or a group cuts off the blood flow to the brain or induces hyperventilation to generate a "high".

The problems with the choking game are twofold: loss of oxygen to the brain kills brain cells, and accidental death from loss of oxygen or asphyxiation.

Oregon isn’t the only place where adolescents participate in the choking game. A recent study looked at accidental death from the choking game in Canada, while another investigated the prevalence of the choking game in Texas.

The Oregon Health Authority gathered data from 2009 on 5,348 eighth graders. To get a full picture, the team asked about the prevalence and frequency of the individual’s choking game experience and, “included questions about physical and mental health, gambling, sexual activity, nutrition, physical activity/body image, exposure to violence and substance use.”

Only 6.1 percent of both male and female eighth graders reported having ever participated in the choking game. Of those participants, 64 percent had played more than once and 26.6 percent had played more than five times.

The research team found, “Among Oregon eighth graders surveyed, more than 6 percent had ever participated in the choking game. Participation was linked to poor nutrition and gambling among females, exposure to violence among males, and sexual activity and substance use among both genders.”

Authors concluded, “The results of this study reveal that choking game participation clusters with other risk behaviors and is not an activity, among those studies, that is more likely to be found among high-achieving, low-risk-taking youth.”

Authors recommend awareness and intervention from parents, teachers and health care professionals to prevent or stop this behavior.

This study was published in the journal Pediatrics, May 2012. No external funding was provided and no conflicts of interest were disclosed.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
June 25, 2012
Last Updated:
November 7, 2012