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Chasing a Drug Free Buzz
November 16, 2005
Maia Szalavitz
Teen choking games turn deadly

If anyone remains unconvinced that a “drug free America,” is an impossible goal, this item from Newsweek should be a wake-up call.

It describes a game played by junior high students in which they strangle themselves with ropes or belts or have someone choke them until they pass out in order to, as the magazine puts it get an “innocent drug-free buzz.”

At least two kids have died from the practice and a web site lists over 50 other deaths it says are connected to it. Versions of the “choking game” have been reported for decades. It is similar to auto-erotic asphyxiation, although sexual stimulation is not involved.

The mother of a child who died was quoted by the magazine as saying “You worry about drinking, driving, drugs… It was none of those things.”

In fact, it is a sign of the same universal human urge to get high that has been with our species (and is found in many animals as well) since the dawn of time. While intoxication-seeking is generally less common in early adolescence than it is amongst high school and college kids, the methods for getting high favored by younger kids—like the choking game and like household inhalants—are actually more dangerous than those used by older teens.

Lacking access to alcohol and marijuana, early adolescents improvise with “innocent” games and household items like glue that carry far more risk than those drugs do. And inhalants and asphyxiation games, unlike marijuana, are potentially deadly: while alcohol can kill, the risk of death from drinking is far lower than from choking oneself to the point of unconsciousness.

Adults, understandably, do not want their kids to experiment with any intoxicant or narcotic; but the urge to alter consciousness is persistent and ineradicable – and this is something that we ignore or deny at our kids’ peril, as this report shows.