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Dear Abby 11/16

Playing the choking game can end in deadly loss

DEAR ABBY: "Worried Sister" (10/4), who asked if she should inform her parents that her sister, "Cindy," is playing the choking game, may feel it is a betrayal if she breaks the confidence. But imagine how she'll feel if her sister dies.
    I'm a high school English teacher, and one of my students accidentally killed himself this way. It is a misnomer to call it a "game." You were correct, Abby — it is playing Russian roulette with one's life.
    "Worried Sister" must intervene and alert her parents now. Cindy's addiction to the high produced through oxygen deprivation may indicate an addictive personality, something therapy can help. I watched one of my dearest friends repeatedly play the "game" when we were in seventh grade. As he grew older, he progressed to greater highs — ultimately resulting in his death from a heroin overdose. -- PAMELA IN GREENVILLE, S.C.
    DEAR PAMELA: You are obviously a caring and dedicated teacher, and you were generous to offer your expertise. The mail I received in response to "Worried Sister's" letter was chilling. Read on:
    DEAR ABBY: I work with people with brain injuries. Each and every time "Cindy" chokes herself, she's causing brain damage, and it's only a matter of time until she's a client of mine.
    Signs of her brain damage will start out with gaps in memory, short-term memory loss, slurred speech and sudden outbursts of anger. The more advanced stages of brain damage include disorientation, loss of coordination and balance, and seizures.
    People who choke themselves to get high should visit the nursing homes in their area, as one of them will someday wind up in one. I speak from experience. I care for many people who said it would never happen to them. This is serious. That girl needs help, and she needs it now. -- ED IN SNOHOMISH, WASH.
    DEAR ABBY: I lost my 13-year-old son to the "choking game." It's NOT a game. "Worried's" sister can only be mad at her for so long. Please urge her to talk to her parents. It's the only way to save her sister. If she waits, it could be too late. -- MOM WITHOUT A SON IN VIRGINIA
    DEAR ABBY: As a school counselor, I can confirm the widespread familiarity of kids 9 to 15 years old with this "game" and how often parents and other adults are clueless. (I was.) After an 11-year-old died at a nearby school, I polled several middle and elementary school classes to see if they had tried it or knew somebody who had. The percentage was 75 percent! It doesn't receive the news coverage it should because medical examiners often mistake it for suicide. Knowing about it is the key to stopping it. -- CONCERNED COUNSELOR IN OREGON
    DEAR ABBY: I teach in an elementary school. One of our students died from playing the choking game. Children as young as 6 and 7 have told me they know what to do. We warn students never to put anything around their necks, and talk about "safe" games they can play. We also encourage them to tell an adult if they know someone who is playing the game. Sadly, we didn't learn that children were doing it here until it was too late. -- AMY IN INDIANA
    DEAR ABBY: My grandson, "Braden," died from participating in this activity in May 2005. Since then, a nonprofit organization, Stop the Choking Game Association, has been formed to promote education about this dreadful activity. Many parents know nothing about it. Thank you for publishing that letter. -- LYNDI T., BRADEN'S GRANDMOTHER
    DEAR LYNDI T.: You're welcome. My heart goes out to all those who have lost loved ones to this "game." For more information about it, visit www.stop-the-choking-game.com.

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