Teen Angst

Helping adolescents deal with anger and other emotions effectively

The Deadly Games That Teens Play

"Teens and the deadly games that they play."

As a counselor, I have heard some crazy things but some of the things teens are doing is really going above and beyond crazy. When you were a teen would you have thought about hopping on top of a car going 55mph? What about tying a dog leash around your neck and suffocating yourself just to get a rush. Or how about this one, spraying a non-stick cooking spray into a bag to breath in the vapors to get high? Well believe it or not, that's exactly what some teens are doing today. 

This blog will introduce you to a few of the dangerous games that teens are playing. Some of the games discussed include: The Choking Game, Huffing, and Car Surfing. These games can be life threatening and even deadly. Get one step ahead of your teen know the lingo their using and the dangerous warning signs of these games. Who knows, you may just save your teen's life. 


  CHOKING GAME
ALIAS: Rising Sun, Space Monkey, Space Cowboy, Flatliner, Gasp, American Dream, Tingling, Blackout, Passout, Funky Chicken, and Roulette.

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PURPOSE: To cut off flow of blood to the brain resulting in lightheadedness and a euphoric high.

RESULT: The death of thousands of brain cells which could lead to short-term memory loss, hemorrhage, harm to retina, stroke, seizures, coma and death (Neumann-Potash, 2006). Within 3 minutes of oxygen deprivation to the brain a person will suffer brain damage. Extend that to 4-5 minutes without oxygen and you get DEATH.

HOW IT'S PLAYED: The Choking Game can be played either alone or in a group. If played in a group, one teen willingly submits to being choked by a friend. Teens use ropes, scarves, belts, bags, dog leashes as a choking weapon. When the Choking Game's played alone the need for a high can become deadly. Most deaths reported from the Choking Game are from loners. Oftentimes, these teens pass out and are unable to release the rope, etc. resulting in their premature death. And if that's not enough you can easily find written instructions for the Choking Game on MySpace or YouTube.

WARNING SIGNS:
• Blood shot eyes
• Talking in code using the game's alias names
• Locked doors
• Excessive need for privacy
• Disorientation after being left alone
• Frequent headaches
• Increased hostility or irritability
• Marks on the neck
• Unexplained presence of belts, scarves, bungee cords, or plastic bags
• Any of the above items tied to bedroom furniture, in closets, etc.
• Bleeding Spots under the skin on the face, especially under the eyelids.

STATISTICS: Studies report that approximately 25% of children between the ages of 9 and 16 know what the choking game is. The Choking Game is most popular amongst boys. The typical game player is an academically high achieving, well-liked, and athletically involved teen that doesn't want to do something that's illegal such as drugs. It's estimated that 250 to 1000 youth die each year in the US due to the Choking Game. Statistics are difficult to obtain because the death caused by the Choking Game is reported as a suicide.

HELP:
Dylan Blake Foundation for Adolescent Behavior
www.chokinggame.net
GASP (Games Adolescents Shouldn't Play)
www.stop-thechoking-game.net

RESOURCES:
Neumann-Potash, L. (2006). The choking game. California Pediatrician, 22.

 

HUFFING
ALIAS: Sniffing, Bagging, Boppers, Poor Man's Pot, and Head Cleaner.

PURPOSE: To inhale chemical vapors to get a feeling of lightheadedness and euphoria.

RESULT: Short-term use may mirror the symptoms of alcohol intoxication: Dizziness, hallucinations, impaired judgment, depression, slurred speech and irritability. Long-term effects can include: Death, permanent brain damage, irreversible organ damage, and cardiac arrhythmia.

HOW IT'S PLAYED: Breathing in a variety of inhalants. Other means of inhalant abuse are sniffing or snorting products or balloons or bags filled with inhalants. There are three types of commonly used inhalants: 

Volatile Solvents - Examples include glue, paint thinner, felt-tip markers, and gasoline.
Aerosols - Examples include hair spray, deodorant, spray paint and vegetable oil cooking spray.
Gases - Examples include chemicals used in room deodorizers, propane, and butane (found in lighters).

WARNING SIGNS:
• Slurred speech
• Chemical odors from breath
• Red and runny nose
• Sores present around mouth and nose
• Decrease in appetite
• Unexplainable clothes saturated with chemicals
• Chemical stains on clothes and or body
• Nausea and vomiting

STATISTICS: Reports estimate that approximately seventeen million Americans have used an inhalant at least once in their lifetime. Inhalant use is most common with tweens and teens. About 1 in 5 eighth graders have admitted to experimenting with inhaling a substance.

HELP:
The National Inhalant Prevention Colatition: http://www.inhalants.org/
National Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug Information: www.health.org

RESOURCES:
1. NIDA InfoFacts: Inhalants. National Institute on Drug Abuse. http://www.drugabuse.gov/Infofax/inhalants.html.
2. 2007 National survey on drug use and health: National findings. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Office of Applied Studies. http://www.oas.samhsa.gov/NSDUH/2k7NSDUH/2k7results.cfm#TOC.

 

CAR SURFING
ALIAS: Ghost Riding and Skitching

PURPOSE: A thrill-seeking activity that produces a rush of excitement and adventure.

RESULT: Accidents due to Car Surfing, Ghost Riding and Skitching can result in brain trauma, skull fractures, spinal damage, broken bones, internal bleeding, paralysis and even death. In the medical literature the most common cause of death in these deadly games is head injury. High vehicular speeds are not required to sustain injury. Accidents and deaths have been reported from vehicle going anywhere between 5 and 80 miles per hour.

HOW IT'S PLAYED:
Car Surfing involves a teen riding on the exterior of a moving car that someone else is driving.
Ghost Riding is when the driver gets out of a moving vehicle to dance beside it while it continues to move forward.
Skitching is when a person is pulled behind a car on an object such as a skateboard.
YouTube, MySpace and many other sites offers tips and video coverage of all of these dangerous vehicle games in action.

STATISTICS: According to the Center for Disease Control there has been 58 confirmed deaths from Car Surfing and 41 non-fatal injuries from 1990 through 2008. This report does not reflect ghost riding or skitching statistics. Most of the injuries were sustained by boys between the ages 15-19. Trends show that Car Surfing reports tend to increase during the summer months.

HELP: Monitor what your teen is doing. Know who she/he is hanging out with. If your teen has the car, know where they are going. Frequently check in with your teen. Discuss the dangers of vehicle games and automobile safety with your teen.

RESOURCES:
Here's a video link from CBS News on Car Surfing. Watch it with your teen and discuss the implications of playing these deadly automobile games.
http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=6965372n
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report: http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm5741a2.htm

CONCLUSION
I know, as adults we read this and ask "What are they thinking?" Well, remember back when you were a teen? I am sure there are some things that you did that someone back then would've asked that same question. Sure we've all engaged in risky behavior in our life and probably learned a lot from these experiences. While engaging in risk-taking behavior is a part of adolescents, it's important to help your teen decipher what lies on the border of danger and risk. Healthy risk taking teaches us about life and parameters. It lets us go outside of our comfort zone and gain self-confidence in our abilities to take on challenges. But some risks have irreversible consequences. 

Please, don't read this article and think my kid wouldn't do that. Go ahead and talk to your teen about these games. You may be surprised at what you find out. While hopefully, your teen's not engaging in these fatalistic games, they may have a friend who has a friend who is, and you may just save a life in the process of reaching out to your very own child. I urge you to reach out before it's too late...

Raychelle Cassada Lohmann, M.S., L.P.C., is the author of The Anger Workbook for Teens.

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