Autopsy Reveals Ketamine Found In Actor’s System

Autopsy reports released on Friday, Dec. 15, from the Los Angeles County medical examiner’s office conclusively attributed ‘Friends’ star Matthew Perry’s death to the “acute effects of Ketamine”.

Ketamine is categorized as a dissociative anesthetic, a group of psychedelic drugs with tranquilizing effects that distort the user’s perceptions of sights around them. People who have taken Ketamine report out-of-body experiences, feelings of detachment from their surroundings, and difficulty with movement.

Ketamine is widely known for its recreational use as a party drug. However, it has grown in popularity as an alternative therapy for treating mental health conditions, such as anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Since there is a high potential for abuse and tolerance builds up quickly, Ketamine is classified as a Schedule III controlled substance. It is illegal to use without medical supervision and a doctor’s prescription.

The autopsy report revealed that Perry was on Ketamine infusion therapy per doctor’s orders; however, his last known session took place about a week and a half before his death, leading investigators to conclude that the Ketamine in his system could not be from that last session.

The autopsy also revealed that the level of Ketamine in Perry’s system was equivalent to the amount that would be used in general anesthesia and that the main lethal effects of the drug were respiratory depression and cardiovascular overstimulation.

Toxicology Report Also Reveals Buprenorphine Use

The toxicology report also found “therapeutic levels” of Buprenorphine, a medication commonly used for the treatment of Opioid use disorders, in Perry’s system. Perry’s live-in assistant confirmed that Perry had been prescribed the medication and was on a daily 2-dose regimen.

Buprenorphine is a central nervous system depressant, meaning it’s intended to reduce activity in the central nervous system and lower levels of awareness in the brain. One main side effect is increased respiratory depression.

Sadly, the mix of Buprenorphine with Ketamine likely amplified the respiratory depression and played a role in Perry’s death.

Perry’s history of coronary artery disease is also thought to have made him more susceptible to the drugs’ effects.

Perry Leaves Behind A Legacy Of Activism

Perry did not shy away from talking about his past addiction struggles, which he wrote about in his 2022 memoir, “Friends, Lovers, and the Big Terrible Thing.” He dedicated it to “all the sufferers out there. You know who you are” and spoke from personal experience about the life-long battle of addiction and recovery.

Perry’s outspokenness and activism for addiction awareness live on in his foundation, the Matthew Perry Foundation, created shortly after the actor’s death. The foundation’s goal is to help support those suffering from substance and alcohol use disorders and states that its mission is to be “the realization of Matthew’s enduring commitment to helping others struggling with the disease of addiction.”

The National Philanthropic Trust oversees the foundation and is currently accepting donations on its website.

Get Help For Addiction

Matthew Perry’s addiction journey serves as a solemn reminder that battling substance abuse is a life-long challenge. If you or a loved one need help for a substance use disorder, act now.

Contact a treatment provider today to explore your treatment options and start your journey toward recovery.

Last Updated:


Jessica Sherer

Photo of Jessica Sherer
  • Jessica Sherer earned her B.A. in English from Ashford University and has over eight years of copyediting experience in healthcare education. Dedicated to providing clear and useful information, she hopes her work will help to support those affected by addiction.

  • More from Jessica Sherer