SCOTCH PLAINS/FANWOOD, NJ -- Dr. Margaret Hayes, superintendent of the SPFK12 School District, sent a letter to parents warning about an activity known as "The Choking Game."

The activity -- also known as the fainting game -- refers to the act of intentionally cutting off oxygen to the brain with the goal of inducing temporary high. The letter came shortly after news reports of a Bernards student's death.

There are varying theories as to the motivations for engaging in the fainting game. Thrill-seeking has been identified as a risk factor. According to Richard McKenzie Neal, author of The Path to Addiction..., the following may be at play:

Sign Up for E-News

  • Peer pressure, a dare, or a rite of passage into a social group. 
  • Amusement over erratic behavior.
  • Curiosity in experiencing an altered state of consciousness and/or a brief sense of euphoria.
  • The prospect of intoxication at no financial cost.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), since 1995 at least 82 youths between ages 6 through 19 have died in the U.S. as a result of engaging in the activity.

It is important for children to know about the seriousness of what can happen to their body if they experiment even on time. Any type of asphyziation, even if temporart, may cause strokes, seizures, retinal damage, brain damage or even death. -- Dr. Margaret Hayes
Dr. Hayes's letter suggested resources that parents may find helpful include www.erikscause.org and http://gaspinfo.com/en/home.html.