Adolescent Russian roulette deaths

Am J Forensic Med Pathol. 2010 Mar;31(1):4-6. doi: 10.1097/PAF.0b013e3181c6849f.


Adolescence, between the ages of 10 and 19 years, is a unique period both physically and emotionally. During this time of life, individuals are known to experiment and engage in risky behavior, sometimes with unforeseen morbidity and mortality. We also see suicide emerge as a manner of death in this age group. The most common method is gunshot wound and sometimes in the form of Russian roulette. Few studies have looked at deaths by Russian roulette, the victims, and scenarios. In particular, no study examines the adolescent victim of Russian roulette. To better understand and classify this entity, adolescent Russian roulette autopsy cases over a 20-year period were examined looking at the victims, scenarios, autopsy findings, cause and manner of death, and the weapons. All victims were males, ages 13 to 19 years, with a Black-to-White ratio of 1:1. No victim had a previous psychiatric history. Toxicology was positive for alcohol and/or marijuana in 50% of the victims. Friends were present when the victim shot himself which occurred in the home the majority of the time. In all but 1 case, premeditation of the game was involved as the victim provided the weapon for the roulette. The cause of death was gunshot wound to the head (6 to the right side, 1 to the mouth, 1 to the forehead), and the manner of death was suicide in 6 cases and accident in 2 cases. A review of the literature discusses the adolescent victim, suicide, and Russian roulette.

MeSH terms

  • Accidents / mortality
  • Adolescent
  • Alcohol Drinking / epidemiology
  • Central Nervous System Depressants / blood
  • Ethanol / blood
  • Forensic Pathology
  • Head Injuries, Penetrating / mortality
  • Head Injuries, Penetrating / pathology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Marijuana Smoking / epidemiology
  • Risk-Taking*
  • South Carolina
  • Suicide / statistics & numerical data
  • Wounds, Gunshot / mortality
  • Wounds, Gunshot / pathology*
  • Young Adult


  • Central Nervous System Depressants
  • Ethanol