Mental health risk factors increase participation in 'choking game': report

January 28, 2010

Mental health risk factors such as drug and alcohol abuse can lead to an increased risk of participation in the dangerous "choking game," suggests a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The choking game is an activity in which individuals strangulate themselves for the euphoric feeling brought on by brief hypoxia. A recent survey by the Oregon Public Health Division found that 36.2 percent of eighth-grade students had heard of the game, and 5.7 percent had engaged in the activity themselves. Participation was increased among children who live in rural areas (6.7 percent), have substance abuse problems (7.9 percent) and have a combination of substance abuse and mental health issues (15.8 percent).

Public health officials recommended parents, teachers and counselors familiarize themselves with the choking game and learn to recognize the warning signs of participation among youth.

In 2008, CDC reported that 82 deaths occurred as a result of the choking game between 1995 and 2007. Most of the victims were boys 11-16 years old.