Schools warn parents about ‘tap out’ game

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BONNERS FERRY — A letter was recently sent home to Boundary County parents warning them that kids have been found playing a choking game in local schools.

It goes by many names — Tap Out, The Choking Game, Suffocation Roulette and Purple Dragon are a few, but the point is the same.

In this game, which has been around for years but is starting to make a resurgence through online media, kids choke themselves or their friends to the point of unconsciousness in order to achieve a euphoric ‘high.’

“We have had one incident of a student passing out and hitting their head on the floor playing this game at school,” the letter told parents. “We have already addressed this issue as a school but feel the need to notify the community as well. Please discuss the dangers of this “game” with your children.”

Boundary Ambulance paramedic Jim Adamski knew the game had resurfaced in urban communities, but was surprised to hear reports of it in Boundary County schools.

“The idea of choking or forced hyperventilation and then holding your breath has become a popular thing with young teenagers,” he says. “They do it mainly to feel “high” just before they pass out. Because it allows for a euphoric feeling without the use of drugs or alcohol, it’s a quick way for juveniles to get high without the risk of getting caught.”

The main problem, Adamski says, is that the process causes starvation of blood to the brain and the potential for permanent loss of brain cells or death.

“The brain is dependent on a constant supply of oxygenated blood to it and the removal of carbon dioxide to maintain consciousness,” Adamski says. The Choking Game disrupts the flow of oxygen to the brain, he says, which causes the brain cells to begin shutting down and the person to lose conscious.

“It’s at that particular moment, when the person begins to lose consciousness, that the feeling of “high” occurs,” Adamski says. “The problem with this is that brain cells can actually suffer permanent damage from this loss of oxygenated blood.”

Brain cells do not regenerate, Adamski says, and people who engage in this activity can end up with permanent memory, speech, vision, balance and other problems. If done improperly (no one there to stop the process at the last moment) severe brain damage or death can occur from asphyxia.

“This is a dangerous game and nothing to fool around with!” Adamski says.

The school district has already expressed intolerance for this game

through PE classes and morning announcements, according to BCMS principal David Miles II, but he wants to spread more community awareness of the problem. Hundreds of deaths and injuries have been attributed to this game.

“I hope all this information will prevent far worse situations from occurring,” Miles said. “Other communities have already suffered tragic consequences of this game and I do not want our community to suffer anything similar.”

According to the Games Adolescents Shouldn’t Play (G.A.S.P.) website,

“adolescents cut off the flow of blood to the brain in exchange for a few seconds of feeling lightheaded. Some strangle themselves with a belt, a rope or their bare hands; others push on their chest or hyperventilate. When they release the pressure, blood that was blocked up floods the brain all at once. This sets off a warm and fuzzy feeling, which is just the brain dying, thousands of cells at a time.”

If parents suspect that their children have been playing this game, they are encouraged to contact the school. More information can be found online. Wikipedia has a page about it. One resource identified by the school district is at: www.minbcnews.com/news/story.aspx?id=31084#.VK6vLCvF-So and another resource is at www.gaspinfo.com/en/choking.html

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