Most parents are aware of the dangers of drug abuse by their children, but what many don't know is that some kids are getting high without drugs, through a very dangerous practice called the choking game.
Alone or with friends, kids choke themselves in order to feel a rush when the pressure on their neck is released. While the government doesn't keep statistics on how many children play the game, a foundation that educates parents on this topic said at least 40 teens and preteens had died last year from the practice.
Levi Draher was a 15-year-old Boy Scout and a freshman at the Marine Military Academy in Harlingen, Texas, when he played the choking game in his dorm room.
Deprived of oxygen for five minutes, he was clinically dead when his mother, Carrie Draher, found him. She had driven there to visit him for a parents' weekend.
"I checked for pulse, respiration, heart beat, and there was none," Carrie said.
Levi was suspended by a rope from his bunk bed, making it look like attempted suicide. He didn't die, though. He suffered a heart attack and was in a coma for three days.
The fact that he is alive today is a miracle, and he isn't alone.
"Kids are willing to play these games by themselves, and when that happens and there is no one else around to relieve that pressure on the neck, it ends fatally," said Thomas Andrew, New Hampshire's chief medical examiner.
Game for Type-A Kids
The so-called choking game has been around for years. Web sites like YouTube show videos in which teens appear to choke each other until passing out, but now more of them seem to be doing it alone, which makes it far more deadly. Often, the kids who play aren't into drugs or other bad behavior -- they're usually type-A overachievers.
"This way is a drug-free high for the high achieving, academically oriented, athletically successful child who normally shuns drugs and alcohol," Andrew said.
On "Good Morning America," Levi, Carrie and police Officer Scott Metheny, who educates parents and teens about the choking game nationwide, talked about Levi's journey to death and back, and what parents could do to prevent their kids from playing the game.
Levi said he wasn't aware of the dangers of the choking game.
"I didn't know," he said. "I was pretty oblivious to the whole thing."
His mother had no idea that the game existed, or that her son was playing it.
"I had never heard of it in my life," Carrie said. "My introduction was finding my son dead."
What Parents Can Do
Metheny said parents should look out for the following signs to see whether their kids were playing the choking game.
Marks on the neck
Disorientation after spending time alone
Marks on bedposts, closet rods and tops of doors
Metheny urged parents to communicate with their children to make sure they were not threatening their lives.
"If you see that you should confront your child, speak to them, find out what's going on," he said.
Carrie hopes that by being open with their kids, parents can stamp out the deadly practice.
"Talk to your children. Don't be afraid of any subject. Just talk to them," she said. "It's no game. There are no winners."