Straight Talk Advice

Sep 29, 2010

Choking game hits close to home

DEAR STRAIGHT TALK: I just read about the boy who died playing the choking game. This really scares me because my sister and some of her friends sometimes do it in our room. I showed her the article and told her she must stop. She just laughed me off saying they always do it with someone else, while this boy was doing it alone, so it’s totally different. We don’t get along, so when I started crying at the thought of losing her, she called me a crybaby and said she’d be happy to be rid of me, so why would I care about losing her. That really hurt. She said if I tell our mom she’ll make it hell for me — and she will. Even so, I’d never forgive myself if I stayed silent and something terrible happened. Please help. — Worried Sister, Sacramento, Calif.

Rachel 19, Redlands, Calif. Ask me a question

I knew this boy who died. Since his death, many friends told me they have tried the choking game or play it occasionally. This freaked me out. The game has many names: Elevator, Passout, Space Monkey, Hangman, Flatliner. Even played in groups, seizures, memory loss, concussions and death are reported. Played alone, permanent brain damage and the potential for death increases greatly. You must tell a responsible adult.

Ashley 23, Auburn, Calif. Ask me a question

I’ve never played it, but nearly all my friends have. Two of them had seizures from it — and there WERE people around! They are lucky they didn’t die. Also, when you pass out, you can break bones or get a concussion. It is important to tell your mom so she can tell the other parents.

Molly 18, Oakland, Calif. Ask me a question

I hadn’t heard of the “choking game” but how incredibly stupid! Cutting off blood to your brain causes instant brain damage. It is considered an alternative to drugs, but it sounds more dangerous than most drugs. Having a friend watch you give yourself brain damage isn’t much smarter.

Jessie 18, Eugene, Ore. Ask me a question

What happens is people get high and don’t release themselves from the choking device. Then they pass out and die from suffocation. Except for a local middle school boy who died from it, I never hear about it in my community.

Gregg 18, Sacramento, Calif. Ask me a question

You need to involve your parents. How could your sister look back and find fault with someone potentially saving her life?

Katelyn 16, Huntington Beach, Calif. Ask me a question

Who cares if your sister makes it hell for you. Kids die during the choking game, even in groups. Their friends just watch in horror. She is emotionally blackmailing you into staying silent. DON’T BE SILENT.

DEAR WORRIED: Speak up immediately. As Katelyn says, your sister is being hurtful in order to silence you. Don’t buy it. Your intervention is truly heroic — and will bring you peace of mind. Most parents will gladly keep your identity a secret. Or inform a teacher or school counselor anonymously.

Readers: Recreational strangulation is increasing in prevalence. Where schools have done studies, anywhere from 6-11 percent of students have participated in the “choking game.” One district had 54 percent participation. It attracts mostly kids ages 9-16. Male middle-schoolers are the largest demographic. Kids are drawn to the high — which is addictive — and many consider it a clean option to using drugs. One survey showed that 40 percent of kids thought it was safe. It is never safe. It is dangerous and dumb and makes you dumber, literally. Brain cells die immediately and damage is cumulative. Noticeable brain damage occurs after just three minutes. Seizures and stroke are not uncommon. At four to five minutes, death can occur.

WARNING SIGNS: bloodshot eyes, headaches, disorientation after spending time alone, locked doors, marks on neck or furniture, knots tied in room. For more information, watch this video:

Editor’s Note: I used to think the press was capitalizing on the sensationalism of the “choking game” but in the last couple of years, its prevalence has increased significantly. Every generation of kids has noticed that you can cut off blood supply to the brain and get a rush, but this generation has taken it to another level. If you know someone who is engaging in a strangulation activity, inform a responsible adult immediately. Brain damage from it is real and, even without seizures (i.e. twitching), stroke, or death, the more a kid does it, the dumber he or she becomes. For more information watch the video linked above or go to —Lauren

  1. By Shelly, age , from Roseville, CA on 09/29/2010

    To Worried Sister:

    You must tell your parents immediately! My sister was doing the choking game in our room and even though I knew it was dangerous, I didn’t want to “rat” on her.  She thought she could do it safely alone but passed out.  Thank God I came into our room in time and untied the cord, but she was still unconscious and had to be taken to the ER.  She was revived and survived.  However, the neurologist who evaluated her said that she may have some permanent brain damage and is going to have to be further tested and monitored.  Now both of us are grounded to our room most of the time.  Her for doing it and me for knowing about it and not telling.  In hindsight I realize that I should have told them, but I’m really not sure that I deserve the same punishment for not telling when she asked me not to.  I keep having nightmares of not finding her until it’s too late.  I used to really want my own room, but now I’m just grateful to still have a sister who is alive who I can share a room with.

    Anybody who has a family member or friend who plays the “choking game” needs to tell someone who can do something about it.  I’ll never understand why it’s called a game.  It is anything but a game.


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  2. By Kelley, age , from Dallas, TX on 09/29/2010

    My stepsister who I have to share a room with on visitations and her best friend do the choking game.  They don’t like me and are always putting me down.  I’m overweight and they even put me down for how my body looks when I’m undressed and even naked which is very humiliating.  Therefore, I figured that it’s their problem if something happens to them from doing the choking game.  And if I tell on them, they’ll be very mad at me and make things even worse for me.  However, I’m starting to have second thoughts after reading this and other things I have read and heard about the choking game as I would still have to live with myself if something happened and I didn’t say anything.  But it’s hard when I know that it will make the cruel treatment I’m already getting even worse.


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