Dangerous choking game increasing in popularity

Blaire Briody

(U-WIRE) DAVIS, Calif. – Most commonly known as “the choking game,” but also dubbed “pass out,” “space monkey,” “gasp,” “rising sun” and “space cowboy,” the dangerous game that involves cutting off oxygen to reach a high has increased among young teens, making many concerned that these playful nicknames have the tendency to further spark curiosity. A 12-year-old boy, Xavier Dazo, died in West Sacramento, Calif., on May 21 playing this game.

Dazo’s death is currently notated as a suicide, but Dazo’s mother told The Sacramento Bee that after speaking with some of her son’s friends, she believes Dazo died from the choking game.

Dazo was found alone in his room with a shoestring around his neck.

Ed Smith, the assistant coroner for Sacramento County, said although this is currently classified as a suicide, authorities are still investigating the case and the categorization could still change.

“We didn’t know anything about [the game] when we first investigated,” Smith said. “The family didn’t talk about it, and the classification may change depending on what we find.”

According to Julie Rosenbluth, a representative for the American Council for Drug Education, the game provides two stages of altered consciousnesses.

The first is the lightheaded feeling upon the initial choking due to lack of oxygen and reduced blood flow. The second phase happens when the pressure to the chest or neck has been lifted, sending a surge of blood back to the brain.

“The kids that are dying are the ones playing alone,” Rosenbluth said, “and there is no one there to relieve the pressure.”

She added that many children who survive after playing the game can still suffer from significant brain damage, including strokes and harm to the retina.

Rosenbluth reported that according to experts, a child playing this game could lose consciousness within 60 seconds and die in two to four minutes as the weight of his or her body further constricts blood and oxygen flows to the brain.

She found that preteens are the most likely to participate in this game, mainly out of curiosity. Most are not outwardly at risk, displaying no previous rebellion, depression or anger.

Kate Blake, the mother of one choking game victim, recently established a foundation in memory of her son in order to educate other families about the dangerous activity.

The Dylan Blake Foundation was founded after her 11-year-old son passed away in October 2005. The organization provides prevention tips, conducts surveys and has created a list of all reported victims to date.

Data compiled in a 2005 study showed that California was found to have the highest rate of choking-game deaths or injuries.

Rosenbluth said children are easily finding out about the game through the Internet, chat rooms and word of mouth, but parents are not catching on because they are uncertain of what to look for.

“Some parents think that if they talk to [their kids] about it, they might try it,” Rosenbluth said. “But if [parents] don’t talk to them they might try it, and it can kill them.”

Copyright ©2006 The California Aggie via CSTV U-Wire