Autopsy Reveals Matthew Perry’s Cause of Death: ‘Acute Effects of Ketamine’ and Confirmation of Recreational Drug Use

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Matthew Perry, renowned for his role in “Friends” and a well-documented struggle with substance abuse, passed away at the age of 54 due to the “acute effects” of ketamine, as disclosed by the Los Angeles County medical examiner’s office in a recently released autopsy report on Friday.

The actor was discovered unresponsive in his Los Angeles home’s hot tub on October 28. The autopsy report listed drowning, coronary artery disease, and the influence of the opioid buprenorphine as contributing factors to his demise. However, the primary cause of death was attributed to the “acute effects of ketamine.”

Ketamine, recognized for its anesthetic properties and psychedelic nature, has gained popularity as an alternative treatment for various mental health issues, including depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Despite Perry’s participation in ketamine infusion therapy, the autopsy report clarified that the ketamine found in his system could not be linked to his last therapy session, which occurred about a week and a half before his death.

The report emphasized that the elevated ketamine levels in his postmortem blood could induce cardiovascular overstimulation and respiratory depression, likening it to the quantity used in general anesthesia.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a cautionary alert in October, underscoring the risks associated with employing compounded versions of ketamine to treat psychiatric disorders.

Toxicology tests revealed therapeutic levels of buprenorphine, a drug employed in addiction treatment and pain management.

Perry’s live-in assistant affirmed that he adhered to a prescribed regimen of buprenorphine twice daily under the guidance of a psychiatrist. Although sedatives were detected, no traces of alcohol, methamphetamine, or cocaine were found.

Details about Perry’s final day were unveiled through records unsealed as part of the autopsy report. Witnesses reported that he played pickleball at 11 a.m., and his assistant left the residence around 1:37 p.m. for errands. Upon returning at 4 p.m., Perry was discovered floating face down.

Immediate efforts were made to retrieve him from the water, and emergency services were summoned. Paramedics pronounced him dead after moving him onto the grass.

Dr. Judy Melinek, an independent forensic pathologist, had previously noted that the delayed release of test results was due to challenges such as a shortage of qualified toxicologists, insufficient funding, and inadequate equipment.

Ketamine, initially recognized for its anesthetic properties, gained attention in 2006 when researchers at the National Institutes of Health demonstrated its rapid and potent antidepressant effects.
The circumstances surrounding the administration of additional ketamine in the hours leading to Perry’s death remain unclear. While ketamine has shown promise in rapidly alleviating severe depression, its usage and potential risks necessitate further exploration and understanding within the medical community.

Forensic pathologist Dr. Judy Melinek emphasized the appropriateness of the prolonged investigation into Matthew Perry’s cause of death, stating, “It’s appropriate for it to take long. Sometimes it takes months to do a proper investigation.”

The Los Angeles County medical examiner’s office recently revealed in an autopsy report that the acclaimed actor succumbed to the “acute effects” of ketamine, a powerful anesthetic with psychedelic properties.

Perry, known for his transparency about his struggles with substance abuse, openly discussed his battles with drinking and drug use, often resulting in hospitalizations. His public admission revealed that he had spent more than half of his life undergoing treatment and rehabilitation.

In his 2022 memoir, “Friends, Lovers and the Big Terrible Thing,” Perry delved into the health challenges he confronted, including multiple medical episodes in 2018 involving pneumonia, a ruptured colon, a brief stint on life support, a coma lasting two weeks, nine months with a colostomy bag, and numerous stomach surgeries.

Cast at the age of 24 in the iconic show “Friends,” Perry’s life took a transformative turn. The sitcom ran for a decade, from 1994 to 2004, earning Perry and his co-stars $1 million per episode in its later seasons. Despite the show’s success, Perry’s film ventures, such as “Almost Heroes” (1998) and “Three to Tango” (1999), faced challenges at the box office.

Following Perry’s sudden death on October 28, tributes from fans and colleagues flooded the internet, highlighting his acting prowess, kindness, and resilience. His fellow “Friends” actors expressed being “utterly devastated” by his demise, emphasizing their bond as more than just castmates but a family.

A private funeral for Perry took place on November 3 at Forest Lawn Memorial Park, a renowned cemetery where Hollywood luminaries, including Debbie Reynolds, Paul Walker, and Bob Barker, are interred.

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