The well-meaning health professionals over at NPR are shocked — shocked, I tell you! — at the latest terrifying “trend” among young people they are calling The Choking Game. The grown-ups have just discovered that kids too young to buy booze are getting a buzz off temporary oxygen deprivation. I don’t know what Amish farm these folks live on; my friends and I were hyperventilating and asphyxiating ourselves for kicks back in the Sixties.
According to a study in the journal Pediatrics, around 6 percent middle-schoolers in Portland, Ore., have tried this choking game, a quarter of them five times or more. The docs are worried that kids will damage their brain cells, or fatally asphyxiate by accident. One Centers for Disease Control study estimates that 82 young people died from choking (or what the S&M community calls “breath play”) between 1995 and 2007. Of course, the study relied on media reports that couldn’t be verified independently.
What’s the point of scaring parents nationwide with yet another Your Child Can Die From This Everyday Activity! news story? It’s not like NPR is trying to sell papers. Supposedly, they want to help parents and teachers spot kids at risk and head them off at the pass. We’re now supposed to look for red marks on kids’ necks, and scarves tied around their bedposts (or what the S&M community calls “bo-ring!”)
Here’s why this project is doomed to failure from the outset. The 6% of pre-teens who are getting high off spinning in circles, holding their breath, or having a friend compress their chest real fast are the same 6% who would otherwise be getting high off inhaling gasoline fumes or White-Out. That CDC survey stated flat out that “those participating in the game also engaged in other high-risk activities, such as drug and alcohol use.”
That’s because this 6% are addicts-in-training, if not addicts already. They’re born that way. How do I know? Normal kids do not lose consciousness for shits and giggles. At least, not more than once. Trust me; if mom and dad are checking your bedroom for scarves on the bedpost when you’re 12, they’ll be checking your sock drawer for weed when you’re 16.
I wager that they will also — and this is where I eventually come around to the topic of love addiction — scratch their heads in wonder at how you got yourself into such a horrible relationship when you’re 21. Because if it’s so dark and miserable and lonely in your skull that unconsciousness seems like a good alternative when you’re 12, imagine how desperate the need to get out of yourself is when you’re 18. Or 30.
The vast majority of people, when you tell them “that’s really bad for you” or “she’s really bad for you” will stop doing that or seeing her. It may not be easy; it may require one of those pop-psych books about how to break bad habits or make better choices. And then there are the 6%. The ones who don’t have a choice. The ones like me. The ones for whom taking that drink or hearing that voice is as vital as breathing.
Or, if your drug of choice is the choking game, not breathing.