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Matthew Perry died of ketamine, says coroner: ADN recalls his rise to stardom before 'Friends'

Perry got into a high school fight with now Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, a childhood scuff that prompted the Canadian leader to muse on social media that he wanted a friendly rematch

El actor murió por los efectos adversos de una sustancia
El actor murió por los efectos adversos de una sustancia | EFE/Emilio Flores/ARCHIVO

December 16, 2023 9:25am

Updated: December 16, 2023 9:35am

Matthew Perry, known affectionately across the world for his role as ‘Chandler Bing’ on the former NBC hit sitcom “Friends,” died in his jacuzzi from acute reactions to ketamine, according to the Los Angeles County coroner, an autopsy report says.

The drug has been approved for use as an anesthetic and to treat depression.

The Canadian American actor, who played roles on several sitcom television shows throughout his career, died several weeks ago on Oct. 28.

His death shocked the world when photos of his drowning in his own hot tub surfaced online and in news reports.

A tragic passing in Los Angeles

Just before his death, Perry shared a nighttime photo of himself on Instagram inside the hot tub Oct. 23, writing in the caption:

“Oh, so warm water swirling around makes you feel good? I'm Mattman,” a name he'd used in recent days while posting on social media, a play off the superhero name of Batman.

The ‘Whole Nine Yards’ star was found unresponsive in his jacuzzi, and medical personnel initially believed the drowning was a contributing factor in his death.

Now, the Los Angeles County coroner says ketamine was the primary cause and added artery disease and buprenorphine effects as further contributing factors, according to a report published by ABC News.

A New York Post story published late Friday night reported that Perry, who was 54 at the time of his death, also wrote about the drug. 

Perry’s mention of ketamine in his memoir

Within a few hours of the autopsy report being released, an excerpt from his 2022 memoir in which he complained about the anesthetic began circulating the internet.

The “Fools Rush In” star revealed in “Friends, Lovers, and the Big Terrible Thing: A Memoir,” that he received ketamine infusions when he underwent rehab in Switzerland during the pandemic.

“Ketamine was a very popular street drug in the 1980s. There is a synthetic form of it now, and it’s used for two reasons: to ease pain and help with depression,” he wrote.

“Has my name written all over it — they might as well have called it ‘Matty’,” he wrote. 

Perry described the drug as a “giant exhale” and said he received doses of ketamine while listening to music blindfolded, saying it caused him to “disassociate” during his infusions as if he were he “dying.”

‘Oh,’ I thought, ‘This is what happens when you die,'” he wrote. “Yet I would continually sign up for this s–t because it was something different, and anything different is good.”

Perry said the aftermath of taking the drug was difficult.

“Taking K is like being hit in the head with a giant happy shovel. But the hangover was rough and outweighed the shovel … Ketamine was not for me.”

Perry’s toxicology report says he took ketamine infusions after his rehab sting in Switzerland, and he took it a week and a half before he drowned in his hot tub.

Perry’s childhood: Performing for siblings, sitcoms, and regretting a high school fight with future Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

Perry was born Aug. 19, 1969, in the small town of Williamstown, Massachusetts. His mother, Suzanne Marie Morrison, was a press secretary to former Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau – Justin Trudeau’s father – and his father, John Bennett Perry, was an actor.

His parents separated when he was only one year old however, and his mother remarried broadcast journalist Keith Morrison.

He attended school in Canada and had five half-siblings who he once said “would stand and applaud” for him when he gave amateur performance for them.

“I had a solid training at home. Whenever there was tension, or I needed attention, I’d honed my skills at delivering a killer line,” Perry wrote in his book, “Friends, Lovers, and the Big Terrible Thing."

“If I was performing well, everything was safe, and I was being taken care of. I might have been an unaccompanied minor, but when I got laughs, there was a whole audience — my mother, my siblings, the Murray brothers, kids in school — who would stand and applaud me.”

He slipped into drug use in high school and even admitted he beat up Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in school once, a childhood fight that prompted the Canadian leader to muse about on social media when he called for a friendly rematch.

“I've been giving it some thought, and you know what, who hasn't wanted to punch Chandler? How about a rematch,” Trudeau tweeted back in 2017.

Perry admitted to the bad judgment call and said, “You know, I'm not bragging about this. This is terrible. I was a stupid kid. I didn't want to beat him up.”

Perry started acting in small child roles in 1979. He graduated from The Buckley School in Los Angeles at 15 years old in 1987 and began acting in small roles on television such as “Growing Pains” which ran from 1985-1992 and “Beverly Hills 90210,” which defined a decade from 1990 to 2000.

At age 24 he landed the role as Chandler Bing on the show “Friends” which immortalized a generation and defined him as one of the world’s most beloved television sit com characters.

Executive Editor

Gelet Martínez Fragela

Gelet Martínez Fragela is the founder and editor-in-chief of ADN America. She is a Cuban journalist, television producer, and political refugee who also founded ADN Cuba.