Matthew Perry, a popular American actor, who was found dead in a Jacuzzi at his Los Angeles home, was discovered to have overdosed on ketamine, medical examiners revealed on Friday.
The revelation has concluded an investigation into the death of the ‘Friends’ actor, who died at the age of 54.
Ketamine is a dissociative anesthetic used medically for induction and maintenance of anesthesia. It is also used as a treatment for depression, a pain management tool, and as a recreational drug.
Matthew Perry, who played Chandler Bing on the hit TV sitcom Friends, from 1994-2004, had struggled for decades with addiction to drugs, including ketamine, and related serious health issues, but had reportedly been clean for 19 months before his passing.
“Matthew Perry’s cause of death is determined to be from the acute effects of ketamine,” the Los Angeles County Medical Examiner’s office said in a statement. “Contributory factors in his death include drowning, coronary artery disease and buprenorphine effects. The manner of death is accident. ”
Ketamine is illegally used as a recreational drug for its numbing and hallucinogenic effects. The drug can also be used by doctors as an anaesthetic, and researchers are exploring its use as a mental health treatment.
Perry wrote in his memoirs of how he had relied on using ketamine daily at points during his battles with addiction. He said the drug eased his pain and helped with depression.
“Has my name written all over it — they might as well have called it ‘Matty.’ Taking K is like being hit in the head with a giant happy shovel. But the hangover was rough and outweighed the shovel,” Perry wrote of ketamine.
His popular movie “Friends,” which followed the lives of six New Yorkers navigating adulthood, dating and careers, drew a massive global following. But even as he delivered on-air gag after gag, and earned a fortune, he was struggling.
Perry attended multiple rehabilitation clinics to combat his addiction to painkillers and alcohol. In 2018 he suffered a burst colon, related to drug usage, and underwent multiple surgeries.
In his memoir “Friends, Lovers and the Big Terrible Thing,” published last year, Perry described going through detox dozens of times. He dedicated the book to “all of the sufferers out there,” and wrote in the prologue: “I should be dead.”
“I have mostly been sober since 2001,” he wrote, “save for about sixty or seventy little mishaps over the years.”
The examiner’s report does not specify how or when Perry had consumed the fatal dose of ketamine.
However, it found that trace amounts were detected in his stomach and that prescription medications and loose pills were present at his home.
Perry was undergoing medical treatment involving ketamine, but his most recent known infusion was more than a week before his death, meaning that dose would no longer have been in his system.
The examiner’s report says the levels of ketamine in Perry’s blood were comparable to higher-range levels used as a general anaesthetic in surgeries and would cause overstimulation of the heart and problems breathing.
This could have caused Perry to lapse into unconsciousness, with drowning then becoming a contributory cause of death.
According to the report, Perry’s coronary artery disease, and his use of buprenorphine to treat severe pain, would have made him more vulnerable to the effects of ketamine.
However, no alcohol was detected in his system and there were no traces of other illicit drugs like fentanyl, cocaine or heroin.