Sad Details Found In Matthew Perry's Autopsy Report

When it was announced that "Friends" actor Matthew Perry died on Saturday, October 28, it came as a shock to fans the world over. The actor, who played the smart-mouthed Chandler Bing for ten years was only 54. Warner Bros. Television Group said to CNN, "We are devastated by the passing of our dear friend Matthew Perry. Matthew was an incredibly gifted actor and an indelible part of the Warner Bros. Television Group family. The impact of his comedic genius was felt around the world, and his legacy will live on in the hearts of so many."

Early reports like that on CNN referred to Perry's death as a "drowning accident." Page Six later stated that Perry's assistant found him in his hot tub in his Los Angeles home. By the time first responders arrived, he was already dead. At the time, reports indicated that Perry did not have fentanyl or meth in his system but did not stipulate a cause of death. Now, the Los Angeles County Medical Examiner's Office released the toxicology report, which revealed that his death was caused by the "acute effects of ketamine," which caused respiratory depression and cardiovascular overstimulation (via TMZ). Contributing factors were coronary artery disease, drowning, and the effects of buprenorphine — a drug used to help people experiencing addiction stop using opioids.

"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," the report said, per The Hill. "Buprenorphine effects are listed as contributory, even though not at toxic levels, due to the additive respiratory effects when present with high levels of ketamine. Autopsy shows no fatal blunt or penetrating trauma."

A troubled history of substance abuse

Concern over the cause of Matthew Perry's death emerged quickly following the announcement that he'd died. Perry released a memoir in 2022 titled "Friends, Lovers, and the Big, Terrible Thing," in which he discussed some of his past extreme substance abuse. As he said in a 2022 interview available on YouTube, "I was taking 55 Vicodin a day, I weighed 128 pounds, I was on Friends getting watched by 30 million people — and that's why I can't watch the show, 'cause I was brutally thin." Perry echoed himself in The New York Times, who quotes him as saying, "I would fake back injuries. I would fake migraine headaches. I had eight doctors going at the same time. I would wake up and have to get 55 Vicodin that day, and figure out how to do it." 

Perry told People in 2022 that he was "grateful to be alive." "What I'm most surprised with is my resilience," he continued, "The way that I can bounce back from all of this torture and awfulness." At the time, he didn't disclose how long he'd been sober but commented on his 14 stomach surgeries, saying, "My therapist said, 'The next time you think about taking Oxycontin, just think about having a colostomy bag for the rest of your life.'"

According to Perry's autopsy report, the ketamine in his system that caused his death was not from infusion therapy for depression and anxiety, which he received a week and a half before he died.

A tragically timed loss

By all accounts, Matthew Perry was on the road to recovery when he was found dead. Page Six even reported him seen "in good spirits" while out eating with a "mystery brunette" the day before he died. After this, he went home and played pickleball for a couple of hours. At the very least, such reports indicate that Perry might have been opening up following his breakup with his fiancé Molly Hurwitz in 2021, which People outlines, and looking forward to life. Such details make it all the more tragic that Perry died.

Perry was never married, and the medical examiner said he was sober for 19 months before his death (per TMZ). People who experienced addiction, like the actor, spoke of how he helped them in their own lives. "I'm a sober guy for 17 years, and I wanna say that, the night I went into AA, Matthew brought me in. The whole first year I was sober, we went to meetings together," actor Hank Azaria said after Perry's death. "He was so caring and giving and wise. And he totally helped me get sober. And I really wish he could've, you know, found the — found it in himself to stay with the silver life more consistently."

If you or anyone you know needs help with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).