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Autopsy Update: Did Matthew Perry Die Because of Ketamine?

Written by Joseph Mcqueen

Matthew Perry passed away with ketamine in his system.

Medical professionals in Los Angeles have now confirmed that ketamine – and its acute effects – caused Matthew Perry’s accidental death. 

Matthew Perry, widely recognised for his iconic role as Chandler Bing in the beloved sitcom “Friends,” was a figure cherished by millions around the globe. His untimely death on the 28th October sent shockwaves through the entertainment industry and among his vast fanbase. Known not only for his comedic talent but also for his candidness about personal struggles, Perry’s passing left many questioning the circumstances that led to this tragic event. After a long process of autopsy, it has only now been confirmed that ketamine was the culprit. But what does this actually mean? We’re going to be delving into the reports and finding out.  

Date of Death: October 28th 2023

The news of Matthew Perry’s death first emerged in October, when he was found unresponsive in the pool of his Los Angeles home. The initial reports were filled with uncertainty and concern, as details about what had happened were scarce. Perry, at 54 years old, was discovered by a live-in assistant who found him floating lifeless and face down in the pool. This shocking discovery prompted an immediate response from emergency services. The circumstances under which Perry was found raised numerous questions. Fans and the media speculated about the possible causes, considering his well-known history with substance abuse and mental health issues. The Guardian writes about Perry’s most recent book: “Friends, Lovers and the Big Terrible Thing”:

“Perry characterised himself as a ready-made, just-add-water addict: an alcoholic with his first drink at the age of 14, and hooked on painkillers with his first pill, prescribed after a jetski accident. High, he drove a red Mustang convertible across the desert, feeling “complete and utter euphoria”: “I remember thinking, ‘If this doesn’t kill me, I’m doing this again.’” It didn’t then.”

In this deep dive autobiographical book, Matthew Perry admits to taking up to 55 Vicodin a day. Amongst other pills and a large quantity of strong alcohol. He also opens up on taking many substances during the filming of Friends – and not remembering much of the filming of it. Thus, any one who knows Matthew Perry, did understand his battle with addition. Thus many were expecting some substances to be in his system when the autopsy came back. However, at this early stage, there was no clear indication of what had led to this tragic incident. 

Autopsy Report

In the weeks following Matthew Perry’s tragic discovery in his pool, the Los Angeles Medical Examiner’s Office conducted a thorough autopsy to determine the cause of death. The findings, released to the public, has brought a sombre clarity to the circumstances surrounding Perry’s passing. The autopsy report concluded that Perry’s death was an accident resulting primarily from the “acute effects of ketamine.” The BBC reports on the senior deputy medical examiner’s words:

“At the high levels of ketamine found in his post-mortem blood specimens, the main lethal effects would be from both cardiovascular overstimulation and respiratory depression… Drowning contributes due to the likelihood of submersion into the pool as he lapsed into unconsciousness; coronary artery disease contributes due to exacerbation of ketamine induced myocardial effects on the heart.”

This finding suggested that Perry may have lost consciousness or control while under the influence of ketamine, leading to his accidental drowning. The report also noted coronary artery disease and the effects of buprenorphine, a medication used to treat opioid use disorder, as contributing factors. These elements paint a complex picture of Perry’s physical health at the time of his death. It seems like Matthew had relapsed before his passing. He had been known to be mostly sober since 2001, besides quite a few mishaps. This was perhaps another one of those.

Ketamine

So, with ketamine in Matthew Perry’s system, let’s take a look at how this substance may have played its part in his demise. Ketamine is used both in medical settings as an anaesthetic and in recreational contexts for its psychoactive effects. 

Medical Use

Originally developed as an anaesthetic for surgeries, ketamine is known for its ability to induce a trance-like state while providing pain relief and sedation. This is why many know it as a horse tranquiliser, due to its ability to give pain relief to large mammals. In recent years, ketamine has gained attention for its potential in treating severe depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). 

Recreational Use

In recreational settings, ketamine is often sought for its dissociative and hallucinogenic effects. Users may experience a sense of detachment from their environment and self. This is often described as entering a ‘k-hole’ if perhaps that detachment goes a little too far. Although, some do seem to enjoy this sensation. These effects can come with risks. High doses of ketamine can lead to severe disorientation, loss of motor function, and in extreme cases, life-threatening respiratory problems.

Perry & Ketamine

According to the autopsy report, Perry had high levels of ketamine in his system, which were likely a contributing factor to his accidental drowning. The impairment caused by the drug could have led to a loss of consciousness or motor control, resulting in his inability to keep himself safe in the water. The report also indicated that Perry had been undergoing ketamine infusion therapy for depression, which raises questions about the supervision and management of his treatment.

Ketamine Therapy

Matthew Perry was using ketamine-assisted therapy to help with his addiction and other mental health issues. Dr. Zaid Fadul – the Medical Director at BetterU with an expertise in addiction medicine – is concerned. The doctor is concerned that people may now demonise this kind of therapy, and forget how useful it is for those who need it. TMZ reports:

“Dr. Fadul’s point here is … any kind of drug that spurs sedation would’ve likely had the same effect, and he feels like blaming MP’s tragic passing on ketamine alone — without this context — isn’t fair, and that might deter people from seeking it out as a viable option.”

It’s a fair point. If he’d been drinking, passed out and then drowned – would we all be pointing the finger at the dangers of alcohol? Probably not. There is no doubt that this concoction of substances and events didn’t bode well and caused the death of Matthew Perry. But condemning Ketamine as an extremely dangerous substance may be a little far fetched. Yes, there was ket in his system, but the cause of death is still – perhaps – drowning. 

Tributes

Nonetheless, however Perry died, his life must never be forgotten. His incredible comedic timing, acting career and fight for those suffering from addiction should always be remembered. He left a mark on this world. The news of Matthew Perry’s death elicited a profound outpouring of grief, respect, and reflection from fans, friends, and colleagues across the globe. His passing not only marked the loss of a talented actor but also a person who had bravely battled personal demons in the public eye. Perry’s co-stars from “Friends” were among the first to express their condolences and share their memories. Jennifer Aniston, who played Rachel on the show, described the wave of emotions she experienced upon learning of his death. David Schwimmer, who portrayed Ross, thanked Perry for years of laughter and creativity. Many other figures in the entertainment industry also paid homage to Perry, highlighting his contributions to television and his unique ability to bring joy and laughter to audiences. There is no doubt that he was an extremely loved individual. 

matthew perry

Conclusion

The untimely death of Matthew Perry serves as a poignant reminder of the complexities of fame and addiction. Perry is but one of many individuals who have suffered from addiction whilst in the public eye. His legacy extends beyond his work as an actor, he was always honest with his struggles, offering a beacon of hope and a reminder of the ongoing need to address and support mental health and substance abuse recovery. Whilst ketamine may have played its part in his death, we should not forget how important this substance is in treating those with addiction and other medical health problems. The research is still being done, but it’s very promising thus far. 

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About the author

Joseph Mcqueen

Joseph is a cannabis journalist in the UK. His search and love for the truth in the cannabis industry is what drives him to write.