The fainting game
Involuntary and voluntary
Introduction and description
It sounds so innocuous doesn’t it? The Fainting game – swooning to get a high, but this game is deadly serious – literally - the risk of death is very high.
According to Dr. Steve Field, chairman of the Royal College of General Practitioners in London, the fainting game is pursued primarily by children and teens "to get a high without taking drugs." In effect, because of the cost of and restrictions on drugs and the lack of knowledge of safer ways, children and adolescents are turning to something that no legislation in the world can ever regulate– and what they have turned to is probably one of the most dangerous methods of achieving a spiritual experience.
Legislation and a lack of understanding and knowledge can be very dangerous things in combination.
A 2008 Centre for Addiction and Mental Health study found that at least 79,000 students in the Canadian province of Ontario participated in this act. The 2006 Youth Health Risk Behavioral Survey in Williams County, Ohio found that 11% of youths aged 12–18 years and 19% of youths aged 17–18 reported ever having practiced it.
This is not a minor practice.
First let’s have a look at all the synonyms – these alone should tell us how prevalent the ‘game’ – practise – is and how the names change to avoid detection. Common names in the United Kingdom, Australia and North America include:
The Fainting Game, Black Out Game, California Choke, California Headrush, the Choling game, Choking Out, Cloud Nine, Dying game [sic!] , Dream Game, Dreaming Game, Elevator, Flatline Game, Indian Headrush, Knockout Game, Pass-out Game, Passing Out Game, Natural High, Suffocation Game, Suffocation Roulette, Teen Choking Game, Tingling Game, Trip to Heaven, Rocket Ride and Speed Dreaming, Wall-Hit, Purple Dragon, Five second high.
In effect, you cut off the oxygen supply to the brain by various forms of suffocation and it is this induced hypoxia that causes the experience. So effective is the deprival of oxygen that hypoxia is extremely quickly induced, and you may [or may not] get a spiritual experience – it depends a bit on whether you pass out or not or die.
A number of methods are used to cut off the air supply:
- The first method that appears to be used is the use of a plastic bag. Anyone who has seen Clockwork Orange will be aware that this was featured in the film. The helper controls the bag and ensures it is removed at the ‘correct time’.
- The next method involves the use of a ligature such as a belt or rope around the neck. You don’t hang yourself, you just sit and have the belt tightened by the helper. The helper controls the belt and ensures it is removed at the ‘correct time’.
- The next method is to compress the artery to the neck – the one known as the internal carotid artery. This is shown in the diagram. The helper does the pressing and ensures his finger is removed at the ‘correct time’.
You really have to know your helper and trust them implicitly in this. And what a responsibility. In theory a helper could be accused of manslaughter if anything goes wrong.
If you do not believe me and think that no one dies from this, then I will provide you with some statistics. It is often difficult for a coroner to determine whether death was caused by suicide or accidents in this ‘game’ so any figures are going to be approximate and probably an underestimate. It appears to be generally felt that deaths are significantly underreported because of false attributions to suicide.
One study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found sufficient evidence to indicate that since 1995 at least 82 youths between the age of 6 and 19 have died in the United States as a result of the game (being roughly 1% of the deaths attributed to suicide by suffocation in the same age group), see chart left [this was obtained via Wikipedia]
Of these 86.6% were male, the mean age being 13.3.
95.7% of these deaths occurred while the youth was alone; parents of the decedents were unaware of the game in 92.9% of cases. Deaths were recorded in 31 states and were not clustered by location, season or day of week.
To me a suicide from hanging should be obvious as the person will hang themselves, feet swinging in space, not wind a rope round their neck and lie on the bed, but apparently coroners and pathologists have not caught up with this logic yet [sorry to be cynical here].
How it works
Asphyxiation and hypoxia.
References and further reading
Unintentional Strangulation Deaths from the "Choking Game" Among Youths Aged 6--19 Years --- United States, 1995--2007" - Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 57(06); 141-144, February 15, 2008
"'Choking Game' Turned Deadly for 82 Youths" by Amanda Gardner, The Washington Post February 14, 2008
"CDC Study Warns of Deaths Due to the 'Choking Game'", Centers for Disease Control and Prevention press release, 14 February 2008
Breath Control Play, epedominion.com
Carotid sinus hypersensitivity, emedicine.com