Matthew Perry Wrote That Ketamine Made Him Think He Was 'Dying'

We learned Friday that ketamine killed Matthew Perry. And now we’re learning more about how the drug affected him.

According to the medical examiner’s toxicology report, the primary cause of death was “the acute effects of ketamine.” The anesthetic, which the Friends star had been taking through prescribed infusion therapy, somehow ended up in his system the day he died. That was, per the report, a week and a half after it should have been out of his system — implying he may have been self-medicating with it.

The ramifications of that are upsetting as Perry was, even per the M.E.’s report, supposed to have been clean and sober for 19 months before his death. But if he was taking prescription drugs without the supervision of a doctor, does that count as falling off the wagon? We truly don’t know.

We do know the drug was a favorite of Matty’s. He wrote about it in his memoir last year, Friends, Lovers, and the Big Terrible Thing. Describing how he’d begun ketamine therapy in a rehab clinic in Switzerland during the pandemic, he wrote in his typically self-effacing way:

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

The part that’s really eerie in retrospect is how the Whole Nine Yards star described the effects of the drug:

“Ketamine felt like a giant exhale. They’d bring me into a room, sit me down, put headphones on me so I could listen to music, blindfold me, and put an IV in.”

He wrote about how he’d “dissociate” on the drug — and that he “often thought that I was dying during that hour.”

“Oh, I thought, this is what happens when you die. Yet I would continually sign up for this s**t because it was something different, and anything different is good.”

God. He actually wrote that about the drug that killed him. He continued:

“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.”

But we know that’s not the case. He apparently got used to the shovel and had it applied regularly.

We learned from the toxicology report that the half-life for ketamine is only “3 to 4 hours,” meaning he had taken it very recently, much more recently than his last prescribed therapy. It seems possible, even likely, that Perry was in that dissociative state he described, feeling like he “was dying” — as he was actually dying. It also sounds like being in a jacuzzi was a horribly unsafe place for him while under the influence of the powerful drug.

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