An alarming new teen party game

February 4, 2010 4:28:45 PM PST
Teens choking or strangling themselves -- the alarming new party game.

A Deadly Way to Get High
By Nurse Barb Dehn

Most parents know that their teens might be interested in experimenting with drugs or alcohol, but many are surprised to learn that there may be something even more dangerous that their kids are using to get high.

An alarming new party game is making the rounds, where teens are choking or strangling themselves or their friends to induce a loss of consciousness and a feeling of being "high."

Teens may know of this lethal form of Russian Roulette by several different names, including:

  • Blackout game
  • Pass-out game
  • Scarf game
  • Space Monkey
  • Choking game

    As baffling as it seems, when a person is choked or strangled the blood and oxygen flow to the brain is restricted or even stopped. This leads to a loss of consciousness. Once the pressure on the neck is released, there's a surge of blood and oxygen to the brain leading to a feeling of euphoria or being "high."

    As you might imagine, depriving the brain of oxygen and blood is not a good idea, and can lead to any number of serious consequences including:

  • Seizures
  • Headaches
  • Blood shot eyes
  • Irritability
  • Falls
  • Broken bones
  • Brain injury
  • And the worst possible nightmare for any parent, a child's death

    Unfortunately, it's normal for teenagers to believe that they are invincible and that nothing bad will happen to them. They are known for lots of risk taking behaviors, as many haven't developed the intellectual capacity to think through possible serious or deadly consequences. It's not that they're crazy, teens don't have enough life experience to know that sometimes the unimaginable and the tragic happens.

    Parents need to know the following:

    Between 11-20% of teens in high school are choking themselves or their friends at home or at parties.

    They're using scarves, nooses or their bare hands in an attempt to black out or induce a euphoric or high state.

    What's worse is that most health care providers like myself have no clue that teens are experimenting with this potentially deadly game and aren't asking about it during physical exams

    Some apparent suicides may actually be a choking game gone too far

    As the mother of a teenager, I know that we all have long and growing lists of dangerous things that can harm our kids and you might feel overwhelmed by this news. Yet, this is a dangerous activity that your teen might not think is anything to worry about.

    They need have the myths clarified, that this is not a game. That it's a dangerous way to try and feel "high", and that the risks aren't worth any momentary and fleeting feeling. Let's get this information out there to as many parents as possible so our kids know that this is NOT a game and that the chance of death is very real.

    About Nurse Barb:
    Nurse Barb Dehn is a practicing women's health nurse practitioner in Silicon Valley and cares for women from 11 to 99. She's also a popular and in demand national speaker on all things related to women's health and lectures at Stanford.

    In addition to her daily health blog at , she is the award winning author of the Personal Guides to Health used by over 3 million women in the US, with titles ranging from fertility and pregnancy to menopause and breastfeeding.

    Barb holds amasters degree at UCSF and a BS from Boston College. She has worked as a Pediatric Intensive Care and as a nurse practitioner in free clinics, high-risk hospitals and private practice. She is passionate about providing health education in ways that people can easily understand and connect to. Barb lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband, son and dog, Cookie.