Matthew Perry's Cause Of Death Has Taken Center Stage, But His Battle For Sobriety Remains His Legacy

His never-ending fight was a triumph, despite his cause of death.

Matthew Perry s_bukley / Shutterstock

Matthew’s Perry unexpected death on October 28, 2023, at the age of 54 shook his fans to the core.

The actor was consistently open about his decades-long battle with addiction, so when his autopsy was made public on December 16, 2023, his cause of death didn’t register as a complete shock.

According to the autopsy, Perry's accidental death was due to “acute effects of ketamine,” along with other contributing factors, including drowning, coronary artery disease, and buprenorphine effects, a drug used to treat opioid addiction.


Matthew Perry had 19 months sober before his overdose, something we should remember as a victory and tribute to his resilient spirit. 

Perry received ketamine infusion therapy as part of treatment for depression and anxiety, with his last session taking place a week and half before his death. 

When given under the care of a medical team, ketamine has life-altering effects for people navigating treatment-resistant mental illnesses, like depression, anxiety, and the debilitating effects of PTSD. 

RELATED: The Meaning Behind Matthew Perry's Batman References In The Days & Weeks Before His Death — 'I Am Mattman'


Yet the coroner noted that the ketamine infusion itself was not the cause of death, since "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’s report announced that prescription medications and loose pills were found in Perry’s home. While no drugs were found “near the pool” or “adjacent to the pool” in which Perry drowned, his official cause of death was reported as "unknown route of drug intake." 



The coroner stated, “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.” It seems as though Perry was using drugs separately from psychiatric treatment, despite having been sober for 19 months before his death.


Addiction is a pervasive and progressive illness, one that can be hard for those who aren’t addicts to fully comprehend. In a 2022 interview with People Magazine, Perry himself noted, “It’s a disease. I have it and so do more than 10 million other people.”

“I have the gene for addiction, and it’s taken me, for some reason, a lot longer even to strive to beat it,” he shared. “The addiction just stays doing one-arm push-ups waiting for you, trying to get you alone, trying to get you really sick, trying to get you to do the unimaginable.”

The tragic fact that Perry was using drugs after being sober for so long shows just how hard of a battle drug addiction is, even for someone with as much fame and fortune as he had. The truth is that relapsing is a common and normal part of the process of working toward sobriety.

RELATED: Getting Sober: Why Overcoming Addiction On Your Own Is Totally Possible


It would be easy to cast judgment on Perry for using.

It would be simple to say, “Once an addict, always an addict. Who here is really surprised?”

Yet that stance overlooks what a major victory any amount of clean time is for an addict, whether it’s a day, a week, or year after year of sobriety. 

In discussing his memoir, “Friends, Lovers, And The Big, Terrible Thing,” Perry touched on the rollercoaster ride of staying sober, saying, “It’s important, but if you lose your sobriety, it doesn’t mean you lose all that time and education. Your sober date changes, but that’s all. As long as you were able to fight your way back without dying, you learn a lot.”

He shared that along his journey, he was taken aback by the wells of strength he found within himself, noting, “I’m most surprised with my resilience. The way that I can bounce back from all this torture and awfulness.” Perry continued, “​​I give myself credit for being sober today, for caring about others, for never giving up.” 


His acknowledgment of his resilience captures the crux of his existence.

Yes, he died of an overdose. In the end, his addiction killed him. But for 54 years, Perry was alive, fighting the good fight.

He brought light and laughter to our world, along with a lesson that all our lives hold meaning, despite our struggles, and sometimes, because of them. 

RELATED: People Who Say It's Uncool To Mourn Matthew Perry Or Say 'Friends' Didn't Age Well Really Need To 'Go Touch Grass'

Alexandra Blogier is a writer on YourTango's news and entertainment team. She covers celebrity gossip, pop culture analysis and all things to do with the entertainment industry.