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New teen thrills include danger
Mental health experts discuss the signs of abuse and how to help teens avoid risks.
Published August 26, 2007
PANAMA CITY, Fla. - It seems youths always are experimenting, skirting the law in search of legal highs.
But some thrills have proved deadly - such as the "choking game." In 2005, 50 teens in the United States died when that game went too far.
Played in groups at parties, during sleepovers and in locker rooms, the choking game has a number of names, including space monkey, fainting, passout game, blackout game, flatline and choke out. The object is to put pressure on the neck to deprive the brain of oxygen. There is a brief rush when the blood flow returns. But by reducing the blood pressure, the brain begins an irreversible process of dying.
This and other teen thrill-seeking activities were the subject of one of the discussions at the recent Addictions Conference, held at Gulf Coast Community College by Bradford Health Services. It was aimed at health professionals, who treat people with a variety of addictions and mental conditions, to keep them abreast of the latest fads and help them identify warning signs.
"The best way to combat the choking game is to let young people know or they'll wind up hanging themselves," said Bryan Russell, regional marketing representative at Bradford Health Services, who led the discussion on legal highs.
Another dangerous game teens are playing is called "drifting." This is a dangerous driving game in which teens maneuver their car or motorcycle sideways down a road while negotiating curves. Drifting is actually a sport that professional drivers play on special tracks built for it. The difference is that teens are drifting on winding public roads where they can't always see approaching traffic.
Another dangerous highway game is car surfing.
"Kids jump on the roof or hood of a car and surf while the car is moving," Russell said.
Those who can't keep their balance are subject to serious injury, he said.
An item that Russell said he saw for sale on the counter of a Panama City convenience store for a couple of dollars, looks like a cheap novelty. A small rose inside a glass tube looks innocent, but the tube actually is used as a crack pipe.
Teens and college students also are using legal plants to get high. Salvia, or salvia divinorum, is a perennial herb in the mint family and has been widely available and smoked and chewed since the mid 1990s.
"It's called 'legal pot,' " Russell said. "You can get a seriously intense high from it. The leaves can be chewed, baked in brownies or brewed in tea in liquid form and can be bought over the Internet."
Russell said a dose of 200 to 500 micrograms of salvia can cause hallucinations within 30 to 45 minutes, as well as intense perspiration, fear and panic.
"Kids are also chewing the seeds of jimson weed to get high," Russell said. "It's all around us like kudzu. It causes paranoia and combativeness."
Nutmeg, a spice found in many kitchens and used in desserts, also can cause hallucinations, flulike symptoms and nausea, Russell said.