David M. Benett / Getty Images
Fans are still reeling from the death of Matthew Perry, the star of the television sitcom Friends after news of his death broke in October. Perry was 54 years old and was found unresponsive in the jacuzzi of his home in Pacific Palisades, CA. At the time of the 911 call, the death appeared to be a drowning. However once first responders arrived, Perry’s cause of death was deferred pending further investigation.
Nearly two months after his death, some answers have surfaced as to what happened to the beloved actor. According to an autopsy report obtained by PEOPLE, Matthew Perry died due to acute effects of ketamine. Additional contributing factors in his death were listed as drowning, coronary artery disease, and buprenorphine effects – a medication used to treat opioid use disorder. The death was ruled accidental.
Perry struggled with substance abuse but was reportedly clean for 19 months prior to his death. The autopsy states that he was on ketamine infusion therapy, with his latest treatment taking place just “one and a half weeks before” his death. However, the coroner noted that “the ketamine in his system at death could not be from that infusion therapy, since ketamine’s half-life is 3 to 4 hours or less.”
The coroner stated that prescription medications and loose pills were present at Perry’s residence but “none reported near the pool” or “adjacent to the pool” where he was found unresponsive. Additionally, the autopsy notes that there were “no signs of fatal trauma or no foul play suspected,” and that his death occurred by “unknown route of drug intake.”
The coroner states in the report:
“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. Drowning contributes due to the likelihood of submersion into the pool as he lapsed into unconsciousness.”
According to the US Drug Enforcement Administration, Ketamine is a “dissociative anesthetic that has some hallucinogenic effects.” The description continues:
“Ketamine distorts the perception of sight and sound and makes the user feel disconnected and not in control. It is referred to as a ‘dissociative anesthetic hallucinogen’ because it makes patients feel detached from their pain and environment. Ketamine can induce a state of sedation (feeling calm and relaxed), immobility, relief from pain, and amnesia (no memory of events while under the influence of the drug).”
If you or someone you know is struggling with substance abuse, please contact the SAMHSA helpline at 1-800-662-HELP.