Saturday, April 22, 2006

Choking “Game” is Suffocation Roulette

It’s a “high without drugs”. In this “game” kids, and some adults, try to get a close to death as possible by shutting off oxygen to the brain for that “high”. Kids, most old enough to be considered to be young adults in many cultures, are playing this “game”, flirting with death. It kills; it has killed here in Lake County as it has elsewhere. How big a problem is it? No one knows, but I know some teens who have tried it (thank goodness/luck without fatal results).

The “high” comes from robbing the brain of its needed oxygen and then giving it back (if all goes as planned). Brain cells can’t store oxygen and survive only minutes without a continuous supply. These cells shut down/off before they die. That is something to recall with self-induced “choking”, because the brain will shut off very quickly, all too often before whatever is being used for self-strangulation can be released or undone.

With relatively minimal pressure the venous blood outflow from the brain is stopped (a point rarely mentioned in discussions on the topic). This results in back pressure into the brain. That back pressure can easily get high enough to stop blood flow into the brain (and happen very quickly), starving it of oxygen. This back flow will break small blood vessels (capillaries) scattered throughout the brain. [This is also responsible for the broken blood vessels (blood-shot, reddened) white part of the eyes that can be an outward sign that someone has been playing the choking “game”] These broken blood vessels damage and kill brain cells by blood leakage and disruption of local circulation. This back pressure also causes leakage of fluid from the blood vessels and that edema can impair circulation and kill brain cells. [Point to remember: dead brains cells do not come back, do not regrow.] Death can and does result from stopping venous outflow from the brain.

A bit more pressure on the neck shuts off Carotid arterial blood flow into the brain, cutting off the flow of oxygenated blood into the brain. Quickly, within a very few short moments, the brain shuts down and dies without the continuous flow of blood and oxygen into the brain.

The “high” someone gets from this “game” is the brain screaming for oxygen, pleading, not wanting to die. The odds really are stacked against the “player”. Some brain cells will die every time you “play”. The roulette part is the very real risk of “winning” death.

Think, make good choices, don’t take chances.


oldhall said...

Only a fool would disagree with you, and so I'm not disagreeing, but... I thought I read that brain cells really can grow back (research has found)


Dr. Richard Keller said...

I was always taught, and have always taught, that there are no absolutes in medicine, but the vast majority of studies demonstrate lack of regeneration. So while there is some "positive" research, I wouldn't bet my brain on it.

Loni said...

Thank you so much for posting this, and hope you will continue to write more on this. My 16 year old son died from the "choking game" (AeA) 16 months ago. We never heard of such a thing. We homeschool our children, and never imagined he'd learn of this. He was a good kid. Loved life. Loved God. Talked of being a missionary pilot. But a foolish mistake too his life. Thankfully, we know without a doubt we will see him again in heaven, but till then, there will be the ache and many tears.

Thank you for sharing on this.

Anonymous said...

Hello I was told that my ex commited sucide by hanging himself. After I read this article, I am indeed wondering if it is possible he was playing this game, he was indeed a sick person. How can one tell the difference on sucide or a choking game death ?

Dr. Richard Keller said...

To discern the difference we investigate where it occurred. With the choking game or autoerotic asphyxiation (not to say they are the same activity, but they are in the hanging differential) the set-up for choking (rope, belt, etc) is usually a bit different than a suicide; there is usually a way out. It may not have worked, but there is usually a way out. Also with choking or autoerotic asphyxiation the area around the decedent usually contains clues that death was not their intent.

We also investigate life circumstances with family, friends, doctors they may have seen, to give us information for our decision making. Had they been known to used choking before, were they depressed and had they made plans for what would occur after their death with belongings, etc. Our decisions are based on the investigation, discussion of the case at case conference, thought out to come to the most likely differential.