LOS ANGELES, Feb. 14 (Xinhua) -- The "choking game," a type of euphoria-inducing asphyxiation game, has killed at least 82 children in the United States since 1995, health authorities announced Thursday.
As no official nationwide records exist, the death toll could be higher, said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which scoured news reports to tally deaths from the game, also known as the "pass-out game" or "space monkey."
Figures obtained by the center showed that the first reports of deaths were in 1995. There were 22 deaths in 2005, 35 in 2006 and nine in 2007.
The victims ranged in age from 6 to 19, the agency said.
"The choking game involves intentionally trying to choke oneself or someone else with one's hand or a noose to obtain a brief euphoric state, or a high," said Robin L. Toblin of the CDC's National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. "If the strangulation is prolonged ... death or serious injury can result."
The activity cuts off the blood supply to the brain, which deprives it of oxygen and can kill brain cells. Children typically lose consciousness, which is then followed by a floating and tingling feeling as they revive and oxygen-rich blood rushes back to the brain.
Permanent disability can develop. The practice also puts children at risk of concussion, fractures, hemorrhaging in the eyes and coma.
The game is widespread, with deaths reported in 31 states.
The number of choking-game fatalities is probably under-reported, Toblin said, adding that there is no way to get an accurate national total since deaths are not regularly reported to the government or listed on death certificates.
Nearly 90 percent of those who died were boys playing alone. Signs of the game include bloodshot eyes, marks on the neck, severe headaches, and ropes, scarves or belts tied to bedroom furniture, according to the CDC report.
Public health officials are drawing attention to the practice because most parents are unaware of it until after their children die.