College students, teens and adolescents will do almost anything to get a laugh from their friends. And who can blame them? Everybody loves a good laugh . . . right?
But sometimes this group likes to experiment with a different sort of game – one that will ultimately give them quick “high.” Unfortunately some of those games are becoming more and more dangerous, and pose a great risk to the participants’ health.
Take a tour with us as we explore the sometimes ridiculous, sometimes dangerous games that kids play these days!
The cinnamon challenge is a YouTube stunt which can be dated back to 2001, and it’s been growing in strength and popularity ever since. To be successful at it, you must be able to swallow a spoonful of cinnamon in 60 seconds or less without drinking any water. Spitting it out or vomiting will make you a loser. Sounds like a fun game, doesn’t it?
Well . . .
Slamming a spoonful of cinnamon can cause brutal burning in the mouth and throat, and eventually throughout the whole digestive tract. Swelling in the throat is also possible, which can cause choking. If the cinnamon is actually inhaled, it can cause intense chest pain and even long-term lung damage. In my daughter's case, this pain was only temporary (whew!). But the journal Pediatrics recently reported a sharp increase in calls to poison control centers as a result of this stunt, and unfortunately a growing number of teenagers have been sent to the emergency room with collapsed lungs and other serious conditions. Cinnamon inhalation can result in cinnamon poisoning which can lead to facial flushing, rapid heartbeat, nosebleeds, difficulty breathing, skin rashes, and inflammation. One animal study found permanent scarring of the lungs, otherwise known as emphysema or pulmonary fibrosis. So while the cinnamon challenge has no reported deaths (and hopefully it stays that way), there is a serious risk involved, especially if you’re asthmatic or have breathing complications. I think I’ll just stick with cinnamon on my apple pie!
I’ll admit that I’ve never heard of this one, and to be honest the thought it is appalling to me. Started in Las Vegas with waitresses performing for tips, vodka eyeballing involves pouring a shot of vodka directly into your eyeball. The purpose is to get drunk in the “twinkle of an eye.” Of course, there is a very serious risk involved if you pour 40% alcohol in to your eye cavity, ranging anywhere from burning the cornea to blindness. Now there’s a health risk to look out for!
Mumblety-Peg is the infamous game of poking a pocketknife in between your fingers as fast as you can without stabbing yourself. Another variation of this is aimed at your feet (literally). Using a pocketknife, you throw it at your own foot while trying to get it as close as possible without wounding yourself. The risk is pretty obvious, and the payout doesn’t really warrant the practice . . . don’t stab yourself and you win? Since we all know it’s not safe to run with scissors, I can’t imagine intentionally throwing anything sharp and pointy at my feet! So I’ll keep my pocketknife in my pocket, just like the name implies.
Pop Rocks & Pepsi/Mentos & Coke
Rumored to be fatal, eating Pop Rocks and drinking Pepsi was another amusement among kids back in the 1970s. The rumors had gotten so out-of-hand that General Foods took out full-page ads to convince parents that this mixture was not deadly. The current-day method is virtually the same, using Mentos and Coca-Cola instead. It’s probably more dangerous to give those Mentos (or is it Alka-Seltzer?) to a seagull, but that’s another story for a different day!
In a friendly game of alphabet scratch, the goal is to see how much pain you can tolerate while your friend scratches the alphabet in your skin with their fingernails. In one extreme case of this game, a girl got a bacterial infection called necrotizing fasciitis, which destroys skin and muscles. She endured seven surgeries and amputation was even considered to keep it from spreading. And you thought cat scratches were bad!
Sometimes teens will play this game in an attempt to get a momentary high. However, it is extremely dangerous and it’s difficult to believe that this risk would be worth considering to some kids.
What the kids do is choke one another with their bare hands or use some sort of noose, whether it be a scarf, a leash, a belt, etc., and tie it tightly around the neck until they pass out. Once the pressure is released, the blood rushes back to their brain and gives them a temporary “rush.” It is also feared that this buzz can create an addiction, which only increases the risk. If played alone you can lose consciousness within one minute and with no one to loosen the constriction from the neck, death can occur in two to four minutes. Besides death, other damage can range from harming the retina to brain damage.
Maybe instead of calling these “games,” they’re better off being called “challenges.” And maybe the best way to win is to not accept the challenge in the first place!