Dear Dr. Wallace:
I’m a 15-year-old girl, and I need information. A friend went to Florida to visit her married sister. While she was there, she participated in something called the “fainting high.” She said it gave her the ultimate high, and no drugs or alcohol were involved, and she could teach me to get high by fainting. I really don’t want to get high, and I don’t want to faint, either, but I still want to know more about this. It sounds totally bizarre. Can you give me any information? Why would anyone wish to faint on purpose?
— Puzzled, via email
Dear Puzzled: The fainting high is also known as the choking game and the passing out game. The goal of these games is to cut off the air supply. The resulting lack of oxygen to the brain brings a high without using chemicals.
Most teens that play this “game” think it is relatively safe, but, unfortunately, it can have a deadly end! According to the data gathered by medical examiners and coroners, this high has brought death or near death to thousands of American teens over several decades. Seventy-five percent of the deaths are male even though more girls than boys play the game. Boys are taught to be cool and tough, and this causes them to be without oxygen longer. Girls are more inclined to end the game sooner.
Parents are usually unaware that a teen is playing this potentially deadly game. With drugs or alcohol, alert parents often can detect warning signs such as changes in eating, sleeping and study habits, and, of course, the smell of alcohol on the teen’s breath. But teens exhibit no warning signs with this particular high.
Why do teens play this game? Many psychologists say the inclination to experiment with any type of dangerous behavior is often caused by peer pressure. Popular peers often accept teens that have low self-esteem or lack self-confidence when they participate in behaviors like this. The secret nature of the fainting high often encourages teens to search out others to also get high in this exciting way. The possibility of dying is never mentioned. Do not under any circumstance try this, and immediately warn your friend (and her parents) of the dangers involved.
Dear Dr. Wallace: I’m 17 and live alone with my mother. My parents got divorced five years ago, and my father has remarried and is living in a different state. My mom and I are pals. She is a wonderful mother, and I love her very much.
Mom is an attractive woman but has not been involved in the dating scene since my parents separated.
All of my dates pick me up at my house because that’s my mom’s rule, and I think it is a good thing. When the guy arrives, my mom is always dressed stylishly and has done her hair and makeup tastefully. I know she likes to meet my date and chat a bit, but it’s almost like she hits on the guy! Of course, she’s not trying to win these guys away from me; I think she just wants to feel like a beautiful woman. I’d rather she would have fun feeling like a beautiful woman with men of her own age. Should I just ignore mom acting like a teenager, or should I suggest she say hello at the door and not bring my dates in for a chat?
— Anonymous, Moline, Illinois
Dear Anonymous: If looking pretty to greet your dates is your mom’s only flaw, then allow her to recapture her youth a little by doing so. Say nothing more to her about looking great when she meets your dates. It could be she is almost ready to join the dating scene with men her own age and is slowly building up her confidence after a long time out of circulation. Based on your overall comments about your mother, I’d say she’s a pretty reliable, steady person, so I would not press this issue further with her.
as long as it remains just a series of harmless, brief conversations. You could ask her about her dating life sometime and encourage her to date again with your blessing when she finds a suitable man she is interested in.