Actor Matthew Perry, best known for his role as Chandler on the hit 1990s sitcom Friends, died as a result of “acute effects of ketamine,” with drowning, coronary artery disease and the effects of buprenorphine (used to treat opioid use disorder) listed as contributing factors, according to an autopsy report released on Friday, Dec. 15 by the Los Angeles Medical Examiner’s Office.
The actor died on Oct. 28 at the age of 54. He was found in a jacuzzi at his home by a personal assistant. An initial report had ruled the actor’s death an accident, with no indications of foul play.
According to the autopsy report, the actor had been receiving ketamine infusion therapy for depression and anxiety.
“At the high levels of ketamine found in his postmortem blood specimens, the main lethal effects would be from both cardiovascular overstimulation and respiratory depression,” the report states. "Drowning contributes due to the likelihood of submersion into the pool as he lapsed into unconsciousness."
Perry had been open about his struggles with addiction during and after the height of his Friends fame, later spending time as an advocate for individuals with drug and alcohol issues. He opened his own sober living house, and had been planning to launch a substance abuse assistance foundation, the Matthew Perry Foundation, which was finally established shortly after his death. According to the autopsy report, Perry had been clean from recreational drugs for at least 19 months prior to his death, and no illicit drugs were found in his home.
Though ketamine gained popularity as a club drug in the 1990s, it has increasingly been used in clinical settings to treat depression, anxiety and PTSD. Perry’s last ketamine treatment had been a week and a half before his death, the report states, which would have been too long to have still been in his system.
Born Williamstown, Mass., Perry moved to Los Angeles and began working as a child actor, eventually earning small parts in TV shows like Silver Spoons and Beverly Hills, 90210. He was the final actor cast in Friends in 1993, as well as the youngest, at 24. The sitcom soon became the highest-rated primetime series in the U.S., with the cast eventually earning a million dollars per episode. He was Emmy nominated once for the series, for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series.
Perry also starred in films The Whole Nine Yards, The Whole Ten Yards, Serving Sara, Fools Rush In, and 17 Again. After Friends ceased production in 2004, Perry went on to TV roles on The Good Wife, The Good Fight, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip and The West Wing, earning his second and third Emmy nominations for the latter, both in the Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series category.
Perry published a memoir, Friends, Lovers, and the Big Terrible Thing, in 2022; it became a bestseller. His final onscreen appearance came in the 2021 HBO special Friends: The Reunion.