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Thread: The Choking Game

  1. #1
    Maple SERP savafan's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2000
    Cincinnati, Ohio

    The Choking Game


    From Thelma Gutierrez

    PARADISE, California (CNN) -- Looking back, Sarah Pacatte realizes she missed the warning signs.

    But at the time, the mother of four thought maybe her 13-year-old son, Gabriel Mordecai, was smoking marijuana. She never imagined he was putting a rope around his neck and choking himself for a rush.

    "A couple of months before he died, he became very hostile, very angry, and he complained of horrible headaches," Pacatte said. "Then I started seeing bloodshot eyes."

    What killed him in May was the "choking game," one of the names for a practice in which children use their hands, arms, ropes or belts to cut oxygen to their brains and pass out.

    Pacatte says she wants to warn other parents about the risks before it's too late for them.

    "I feel a little bit of anger, but mostly I feel desperation and urgency," she says.

    It's already too late for 13-year-old Chelsea Dunn of Idaho and 14-year-old Jason Linkins of North Carolina, whose deaths in recent years were among those thought to be the result of similar suffocation games.

    Details of how the "game" is played, once passed among schoolmates, now spread on the Internet.

    Gabriel's twin brother and best friend, Sam, says they learned of it from an older boy, who showed them how to hyperventilate and apply pressure to their necks.

    "You kind of like pass out for a few seconds," Sam explains.

    "It's a sensation ... like we've never experienced before," he said, calling it "weird."

    But Gabriel's initial response was more enthusiastic, Sam says.

    "It's awesome," he recalls his brother exclaiming.

    "I really didn't like it that much," he says, adding that he did it out of peer pressure.

    When Sarah found out her sons were playing, she told them to stop.

    "Gabriel was argumentative about this game," Pacatte said. She recalls him saying, "What's the big deal? I'm not taking any drugs; I'm not drinking or anything."

    "I said, 'The big deal is that every time you cut your oxygen off to your brain, you're causing brain damage little by little.'"

    Children have likely been playing the "choking game" for a long time, Connecticut-based child psychologist Dr. Lawrence Shapiro told The Associated Press.

    Shapiro, author of "The Secret Language of Children," told the AP that parents should discuss such dangerous behavior with their children, in addition to talking about drugs and alcohol.

    "Younger kids don't know that they can die from this, that it's a very dangerous activity," Shapiro told the news agency.

    But Gabriel loved the sensation, his mother said.

    "It was almost like a drug," she said. "They crave it; they crave the high that they get from the lack of oxygen."

    Gabriel began to play alone.

    "One day he was doing it to himself," his brother says. "He stopped because I told him I was going to tell Mom."

    Despite Pacatte's numerous warnings, Sam says Gabriel kept doing it -- often while their mother was at work.

    The day before Gabriel died, she asked him about a mark on his neck.

    "He looked at me kind of funny and he said, 'Don't worry mom, it's not a hickey,'" Pacatte says.

    The next evening, while Pacatte was preparing dinner, Sam went into his room and found his brother with a rope around his neck. When his brother didn't respond, he yelled, "Gabe!"

    "When I got to the bedroom door, Samuel was across the room behind his brother," Pacatte says. "He was holding his brother up under his arms."

    Gabriel was airlifted to a hospital in Sacramento. Sarah and Sam made the gut-wrenching, two-hour journey by car.

    They prayed at Gabriel's side, but 15 hours later, Pacatte says, "He died on life support. His body shut down."

    Pacatte says their apartment is too quiet now.

    "It's very hard to watch Sam be without his brother," she says. "We miss him so much."

    She even misses the bickering.

    "I miss the fighting," she says. "I'd gladly give up my life just to see those two kids fight."

    The family takes some comfort in their memories of Gabriel and from the words in his journal.

    "I plan to go to college for four years," Sam reads from his brother's writings. "I plan to send my mom about $500 a month to help support her."

    Wiping away tears, Pacatte says that months later she remains angry and hurt.

    "I have guilt, so much guilt, because I didn't save my baby," she says. "What a beautiful child; what a beautiful gift. And he's gone."

    "In the blink of an eye, my boy is gone," she says.
    My dad got to enjoy 3 Reds World Championships by the time he was my age. So far, I've only gotten to enjoy one. Step it up Redlegs!

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  3. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 2004

    Re: The Choking Game

    What. The. Hell?
    I hope it's never sunny in Philly again.

  4. #3
    Mod Law zombie-a-go-go's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2004
    Miskatonic University

    Re: The Choking Game

    This is hardly new; we were doing this years ago (most often with our SOs)... a really stupid activity, though, even moreso to try and do it yourself. Just another thing to experiment with and discard.
    "It's easier to give up. I'm not a very vocal player. I lead by example. I take the attitude that I've got to go out and do it. Because of who I am, I've got to give everything I've got to come back."
    -Ken Griffey Jr.

  5. #4
    Titanic Struggles Caveat Emperor's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2004
    The 513

    Re: The Choking Game

    Quote Originally Posted by zombie-a-go-go
    This is hardly new; we were doing this years ago (most often with our SOs)... a really stupid activity, though, even moreso to try and do it yourself. Just another thing to experiment with and discard.
    When I was at St. Andrews for grade school back in the day, there was a kid from Milford Junior High that killed himself trying to do this with a phone cord.

    It is absolutely amazing the lenghts that kids will go to find something dumb to do with their free time.
    Cincinnati Here We Go.
    26 Years and Counting...

  6. #5
    Something clever pahster's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Reno, NV

    Re: The Choking Game

    Weird. A form of autoerotic asphyxiation, perhaps?

  7. #6
    Danger is my business! oneupper's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2004
    Back in Florida

    Re: The Choking Game

    A kid in my Junior High School died doing this. Claimed that when he did it, he could see the future.

    That was 30 years ago. I can't imagine what he saw.
    "A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky, dangerous animals and you know it."


  8. #7
    Join Date
    Jan 2005

    Re: The Choking Game

    Quote Originally Posted by pahster
    Weird. A form of autoerotic asphyxiation, perhaps?
    Sounds like it...Saw where a Gay Serial Killer in Indiana a few years back got his start by choking his one night stands and eventually went to far with one and killed the guy. After that he could not get the same rush without "going all the way". Very weird. His dates went willingly and were into the choking.

    I try not to be judgemental but that is a little weird.

  9. #8
    Churlish Johnny Footstool's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2001
    Olathe, KS

    A deadly game played by a lot of teens

    We played a version of this game when I was in 7th grade. We called it a "Harvey Wallbanger." One kid would hold his breath and stand against a wall with another kid pushing on his chest. It didn't occur to us that there might be real physical consequences.

    I thought it was just something the kids at our school came up with. I was wrong. It sounds like kids everywhere play a version of this "game."

    Lawrence girl is a recent victim of the ‘pass-out game’

    Teens’ brief high can choke out life


    The Kansas City Star

    LAWRENCE — It wasn’t drinking, drugs or school violence that killed Tim and Carol Wilson’s 15-year-old daughter last week. It was something they had never even contemplated.

    Kimberly Wilson lost her life to the “pass-out game,” a form of asphyxiation in which a person — by themselves or with a friend — voluntarily is choked to the point of losing consciousness. It’s a practice that adolescent psychologists said was more common than adults would like to believe.

    Carol Wilson discovered the freckle-faced teen dead in the morning a week ago, with a plastic-coated bicycle lock chain around her neck. She had choked to death sometime overnight.

    The pass-out game, or choking game, has claimed the lives of children in North Carolina, Idaho and California in recent months. Adolescent psychologists said the self-destructive behavior could become addictive, just like eating disorders or self-cutting. Yet few parents even know the game exists.

    “This thing, this ‘game’ — I hate to call it a game — this thing killed my daughter,” said Tim Wilson, a software specialist and a pastor at a local church. “We want this secret exposed so nobody else has to lose their child.”

    The goal of the choking game is the brief high that comes as blood and oxygen leave the brain and the rush that follows when the body is revived. Teens often play together, and some, like Kimberly, practice it alone, with lethal results.

    “This has been around for years,” said George Comiskey, associate director of the Center for the Study of Addiction & Recovery at Texas Tech University. “Teenagers will try anything.”

    Kimberly Wilson’s death is the latest in a series of deaths attributed recently to the choking game. A 13-year-old California boy died in May. Last month a 10-year-old Idaho boy was found dead, hanging from a tree. Another Idaho child, a 13-year-old girl, died in her bedroom three months earlier.

    Denise Dowd, an emergency room doctor at Children’s Mercy Hospital, said that the practice had been around for years but that reported cases remained rare.

    “Throughout the years we’ve (Children’s Mercy) seen strangulation injuries from what’s been reported as play,” she said. “I remember growing up in the ’60s and ’70s kids did that.”

    Kansas City school resource police Officer Gordon Herndon, who works at Southeast High School, said he heard about the choking game for the first time a few weeks ago at a training seminar on club drugs like ecstasy.

    “One presenter happened to mention it as another thing young people use to get high,” Herndon said.

    Herndon said after hearing about the recent incidents in the news, he likely would add information about the fatal game to his program this school year.

    After talking with their daughter’s friends, the Wilsons now think Kimberly had been playing the pass-out game for at least a year. “She had certain friends she did it with,” Tim Wilson said. “But her closest friends, the ones who would have disapproved, she didn’t tell.”

    Medical officials said the choking game is similar to a more common practice called auto-erotic asphyxiation, where mostly adult or older teen males use choking to enhance a sexual experience.

    “We see one of those deaths every few years,” said Thomas Young, Jackson County medical examiner.

    Though sex is not involved in the choking game, the science is the same and the effects can be just as lethal.

    The pressure put on the carotid artery in the neck during the choking can cause a sudden drop in blood pressure and irregular heartbeats. The loss of oxygen can damage cells and vital organs, also leading to death. Even if the person is revived, he or she can suffer irreversible damage if the brain goes without oxygen for more than four minutes.

    The resulting death may look like suicide, but often other evidence of self-destructive intent is lacking, such as notes, a history of depression or recent financial or personal problems. People sometimes rig the choking device with padding around the neck or a release mechanism, showing they did not intend to kill themselves.

    To adults, the pass-out game may sound irrational, but adolescents are often unable to see long-term consequences, said Tami Radohl, a mental health counselor at Lawrence’s Southwest Junior High School. After Kimberly Wilson’s death, Radohl said, she explained the choking game to several bewildered teachers. Radohl said teens at nearly every school in the area had likely experimented with the game.

    “Teenagers always have engaged in high-risk activities,” Radohl said. “This one has gone under the radar.”

    The most recent choking game cases have involved children between the ages of 10 and 15, the same age group often associated with huffing, or breathing the fumes of chemicals to get high.

    “At the middle school level, they are not necessarily out buying drugs,” said Janine Gracy, who heads the Regional Prevention Center in Johnson County. “They are using things that are easily accessible. They find things at home.”

    Teens with anxiety problems or depression are more likely to repeat the choking game compulsively, similar to eating disorders or self-cutting, said Ashraf Attalla, an Atlanta-area adolescent psychiatrist who has emerged as the closest thing to an expert on the little-studied behavior.

    Attalla said the choking game’s warning signs include strange marks on the neck, bloodshot eyes or complaints of headaches.

    “Kids mask things very well. But there are warning signs,” Attalla said. “If a kid is doing it, the kid should be evaluated by a mental health professional.”

    The Wilsons said their daughter never had trouble with drugs, alcohol or emotional problems. Carol Wilson said she once noticed an unusual mark on Kimberly’s neck and joked with her daughter about it looking like a hickey. Otherwise, the Wilsons said that they had no warning and that Kimberly was just another happy teen. She would have turned 16 at the end of this month.

    “She was very happy, she was very open about everything,” Carol Wilson said of her daughter. Tim Wilson shook his head and added, “About everything but this.”
    "I prefer books and movies where the conflict isn't of the extreme cannibal apocalypse variety I guess." Redsfaithful

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