updated 1/14/2010 6:36:10 PM ET 2010-01-14T23:36:10

A new report suggests a large number of eighth-graders in Oregon have taken part in the “choking game,” the dangerous practice of choking each other to get a feeling of euphoria.

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As many as 2,600 eighth-graders may have risked injury, long-term disability or even death by trying the so-called “game” that also carries nicknames such as “Pass-Out,” “Space Monkey,” “Flatliner” and “Blackout.”

“That’s a lot of kids,” said Dr. Mel Kohn, the state public health director.

The results of the Oregon Public Health survey released Thursday by the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta were compiled from responses from nearly 8,000 eighth-graders at 114 schools in Oregon.

The survey, conducted in 2008, also showed that more than a third of those eighth-graders had heard about the choking game.

Almost 3 percent of those responding said they had helped someone, while about 6 percent said they had participated themselves.

The survey also indicated that teens in rural areas and those with increased mental health risk factors or involved in substance abuse were more likely to take part in the risky game.

Sarah Ramowski, lead author of the report on the survey results, said researchers were not sure what accounted for the differences between rural and urban eighth-graders but it merits further study.

“At this point, all we know is that rural youths had higher rates of participation,” said Ramowski, who is an adolescent health policy specialist at the Oregon Public Health Division.

Kohn said most of the eighth-graders likely heard about it from their peers rather than outside sources, including television or other media.

He also noted it was different from autoerotic asphyxiation.

“It’s really not a sexual thing at all,” Kohn said about the teen choking game. “It’s more of a euphoria and getting high kind of goal.”

But Kohn urged parents to watch for warning signs of the practice, including:

  • Unexplained marks on the neck.
  • Bloodshot eyes.
  • Ropes, scarves, belts tied to bedroom furniture or doorknobs.
  • Unexplained presence of leashes or bungee cords.
  • Pinpoint bleeding spots under the skin on the face, especially the eyelids.
  • Discussion or mention of the activity.
  • Disorientation, especially after spending time alone.

In 2008, the CDC identified 82 deaths occurring in 31 states from the choking game from 1995 to 2007. In Oregon, an Eagle Point sixth grader died in 2006 from it.


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