What is ketamine, the drug that ended Matthew Perry's life?

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By Asiya Ali

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Nearly two months ago, the world of entertainment was left in shock after it was reported that the beloved Matthew Perry tragically passed away at age 54.

The Hollywood star was widely recognized for his role as Chandler Bing in the popular sitcom Friends, which featured a star-studded cast including Lisa Kudrow, Courteney Cox, David Schwimmer, Matt Le Blanc, and Jennifer Aniston.

The Los Angeles Times reported that on Saturday, October 28, Perry was found unresponsive in a hot tub at his Los Angeles home by first responders.

His heartbroken family issued a brief but poignant statement, writing: "Matthew brought so much joy to the world, both as an actor and a friend. You all meant so much to him, and we appreciate the tremendous outpouring of love."

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Perry died in October at the age of 54. Credit: Alex B. Huckle/Getty

The 17 Again actor's official cause of death was revealed this week, as reported by TMZ.

A toxicology report from the Los Angeles County Medical Examiner’s Office disclosed that Perry sadly died from "the acute effects of ketamine," a substance that is used to treat depression and is also used as a recreational drug. The manner of death was ruled an accident.

The report shared that the star had been undergoing ketamine infusion therapy before he passed, reportedly for depression and anxiety. The exact method of intake has not been determined.

The toxicology report goes on to state: "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."

In addition to this, contributory factors in Perry's death also included drowning, coronary artery disease, and buprenorphine effects - which is an opioid medication used to treat pain and opioid addiction.

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Perry died from "the acute effects of ketamine," a drug that is used to treat depression Credit: RJ Sangosti/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post / Getty What is ketamine?

The substance is used as an anesthetic by medical doctors and veterinarians and is also used illegally as a recreational drug.

The Alcohol and Drug Foundation (ADF) defines it as a "dissociative drug," which means it causes people to feel "separated or detached" from their bodies or physical surroundings.

In 2006, researchers at the National Institutes of Health demonstrated that a dose of ketamine could reduce severe depression in a matter of hours. In comparison to other treatments, they often take weeks to ease the condition and don't work for every patient.

However, at high doses, the drug can cause negative health issues that affect cardiovascular, respiratory, and neurologic function, which can be deadly, according to the American Addiction Centers.

Some of the dangers include increased blood pressure, poor muscle control, breathing, addiction, amnesia, seizures, problems with judgment and coordination, and lower urinary tract irritation.

The drug can also cause hallucinations and change people's thoughts and emotions. Perry opened up about this in his 2022 memoir, Friends, Lovers, and the Big Terrible Thing, hauntingly revealing that he'd "dissociate" on ketamine and adding 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," he penned. "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."

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Perry had been undergoing ketamine infusion therapy before he passed. Credit: Kevin Winter / Getty

Research has shown that even though ketamine works quickly, the effects wane after a few days or weeks.

In Perry's case, he was using ketamine infusion therapy for depression and anxiety, with the most recent infusion provided a week and a half before his untimely death, his toxicology report stated.

But, the ketamine used for that therapy was unlikely the cause of The Fool's Gold actor's passing as the half-life of the drug in the system is around three to four hours or less, the report said.

It's unclear still how or when Perry received more ketamine in the hours before he died.

Featured image credit: WLADIMIR BULGAR/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY / Getty

What is ketamine, the drug that ended Matthew Perry's life?

vt-author-image

By Asiya Ali

Article saved!Article saved!

Nearly two months ago, the world of entertainment was left in shock after it was reported that the beloved Matthew Perry tragically passed away at age 54.

The Hollywood star was widely recognized for his role as Chandler Bing in the popular sitcom Friends, which featured a star-studded cast including Lisa Kudrow, Courteney Cox, David Schwimmer, Matt Le Blanc, and Jennifer Aniston.

The Los Angeles Times reported that on Saturday, October 28, Perry was found unresponsive in a hot tub at his Los Angeles home by first responders.

His heartbroken family issued a brief but poignant statement, writing: "Matthew brought so much joy to the world, both as an actor and a friend. You all meant so much to him, and we appreciate the tremendous outpouring of love."

wp-image-1263235393 size-full
Perry died in October at the age of 54. Credit: Alex B. Huckle/Getty

The 17 Again actor's official cause of death was revealed this week, as reported by TMZ.

A toxicology report from the Los Angeles County Medical Examiner’s Office disclosed that Perry sadly died from "the acute effects of ketamine," a substance that is used to treat depression and is also used as a recreational drug. The manner of death was ruled an accident.

The report shared that the star had been undergoing ketamine infusion therapy before he passed, reportedly for depression and anxiety. The exact method of intake has not been determined.

The toxicology report goes on to state: "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."

In addition to this, contributory factors in Perry's death also included drowning, coronary artery disease, and buprenorphine effects - which is an opioid medication used to treat pain and opioid addiction.

wp-image-1263240774 size-full
Perry died from "the acute effects of ketamine," a drug that is used to treat depression Credit: RJ Sangosti/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post / Getty What is ketamine?

The substance is used as an anesthetic by medical doctors and veterinarians and is also used illegally as a recreational drug.

The Alcohol and Drug Foundation (ADF) defines it as a "dissociative drug," which means it causes people to feel "separated or detached" from their bodies or physical surroundings.

In 2006, researchers at the National Institutes of Health demonstrated that a dose of ketamine could reduce severe depression in a matter of hours. In comparison to other treatments, they often take weeks to ease the condition and don't work for every patient.

However, at high doses, the drug can cause negative health issues that affect cardiovascular, respiratory, and neurologic function, which can be deadly, according to the American Addiction Centers.

Some of the dangers include increased blood pressure, poor muscle control, breathing, addiction, amnesia, seizures, problems with judgment and coordination, and lower urinary tract irritation.

The drug can also cause hallucinations and change people's thoughts and emotions. Perry opened up about this in his 2022 memoir, Friends, Lovers, and the Big Terrible Thing, hauntingly revealing that he'd "dissociate" on ketamine and adding 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," he penned. "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."

wp-image-1263240773 size-full
Perry had been undergoing ketamine infusion therapy before he passed. Credit: Kevin Winter / Getty

Research has shown that even though ketamine works quickly, the effects wane after a few days or weeks.

In Perry's case, he was using ketamine infusion therapy for depression and anxiety, with the most recent infusion provided a week and a half before his untimely death, his toxicology report stated.

But, the ketamine used for that therapy was unlikely the cause of The Fool's Gold actor's passing as the half-life of the drug in the system is around three to four hours or less, the report said.

It's unclear still how or when Perry received more ketamine in the hours before he died.

Featured image credit: WLADIMIR BULGAR/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY / Getty