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It has been referred to as Choking Game, Scarf Game, Pass-out Game, Space Monkey, Suffocation Roulette, Fainting Game, Flat Liner and The American Dream. But regardless of the tag, it is dangerous and sometimes deadly. It is not a new game but statistics show that it has had resurgence in popularity in the last few years.

Statistics are difficult to come by because some of the deaths that are ruled suicide may have been a result of the “game.” According to the Center for Disease Control, it is estimated that 800-1000 youth between the ages of 10-19 die of strangulation each year. If only 10% were a result of the “game” then that would mean 80-100 die in the US each year.

The activity involves applying pressure to the neck to stop the blood flow to the brain and then releasing the pressure to create a temporary sense of euphoria. The reality is that someone can become unconscious in a matter of seconds. Within three minutes of continued strangulation (i.e., hanging), basic functions such as memory, balance, and the central nervous system start to fail. Death occurs shortly after. Choking Game statistics such as the following charts can be found at

According to researchers from the Center for Disease Control´s Division of Unintentional Injury Prevention, some of the warning signs of a child or teen’s participation in this activity are:

  • Discussion of the game or its aliases
  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Marks on the neck
  • Wearing high-necked shirts, even in warm weather
  • Frequent, severe headaches
  • Disorientation after spending time alone
  • Increased and uncharacteristic irritability or hostility
  • Ropes, scarves, and belts tied to bedroom furniture or doorknobs or found knotted on the floor
  • The unexplained presence of dog leashes, choke collars, bungee cords, etc.

Children and teens live in a world of so much make believe that it is difficult for them to comprehend reality. They are always looking for the next thrill or physically stimulating experience and this activity has become the “euphoric drug of choice.”

Our role as parents and youth ministry leaders is to help them find the peace, excitement and thrill of following Christ so they do not accept a substitute. I am reminded of  Proverbs 27:7, “A satisfied soul loathes the honeycomb, But to a hungry soul every bitter thing is sweet.” We need to help them “keep their souls full!”

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