What is ketamine, the drug tied to actor Matthew Perry’s death?

Matthew Perry’s Cause of Death

What is Ketamine ?

Ketamine is a medication that has been used for various purposes, including as an anesthetic in medical settings and for recreational purposes. It belongs to the class of drugs known as dissociative anesthetics and was first developed in the 1960s.

Medical Uses of Ketamine:

  1. Anesthesia: Ketamine is commonly used as an anesthetic in medical and veterinary settings. It induces a trance-like state, providing pain relief, sedation, and memory loss during medical procedures.
  2. Pain Management: In lower doses, ketamine can be used for pain management, particularly in situations where traditional pain medications may not be effective.
  3. Depression Treatment: In recent years, there has been growing interest in the use of ketamine for the treatment of certain psychiatric conditions, particularly treatment-resistant depression. Ketamine infusions have shown rapid and robust antidepressant effects in some individuals.

Ketamine Therapy:

Ketamine therapy involves the use of ketamine in a controlled and therapeutic setting for the treatment of mental health conditions, especially depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This type of therapy is often referred to as ketamine-assisted psychotherapy (KAP) or ketamine infusion therapy.

The process typically involves the administration of a low, sub-anesthetic dose of ketamine in a monitored and supportive environment. The therapy is conducted by trained medical professionals, and the patient’s psychological experience is often guided by a therapist or mental health professional.

How Ketamine Works in Mental Health Treatment

The exact mechanisms through which ketamine exerts its antidepressant effects are not fully understood. However, it is believed to involve the modulation of glutamate, a neurotransmitter in the brain. Ketamine may lead to the release of certain proteins that help in the formation of new neural connections and the restoration of normal brain function.

It’s important to note that while ketamine therapy has shown promise in some cases, it is not a first-line treatment and is typically considered when other standard treatments have not been effective. Additionally, the long-term safety and efficacy of ketamine therapy for mental health conditions are still being studied.

If you or someone you know is considering ketamine therapy, it is crucial to consult with a qualified healthcare professional who can assess the individual’s specific situation, discuss potential risks and benefits, and provide appropriate guidance and supervision throughout the therapy process.

‘Friends’ star Matthew Perry’s cause of death revealed in autopsy report

The cause of Matthew Perry’s death has been officially disclosed. The Los Angeles County Medical Examiner’s office confirmed on Friday that the demise of the late “Friends” actor in October was deemed accidental, attributed to “the acute effects of ketamine.” Additional contributing factors included drowning, coronary artery disease, and the impact of buprenorphine.

Buprenorphine, described as “an opioid-like drug used in the treatment of opioid addiction as well as acute and chronic pain,” was highlighted in Perry’s 29-page autopsy report obtained by USA TODAY. The report stated that there were no indications of “fatal trauma, and no foul play suspected.”


How did Matthew Perry pass away?

Perry was discovered unresponsive and face-down in the “heated end” of his pool on October 28, as indicated by his autopsy. Responding to a call, the Los Angeles Fire Department confirmed to USA TODAY that firefighters arrived at Perry’s Pacific Palisades residence at 4:07 p.m. on that day, finding “an adult male unconscious in a stand-alone jacuzzi.”

“A bystander had brought the man’s head above the water and gotten him to the edge; then, firefighters removed him from the water upon their arrival. Unfortunately, a rapid medical assessment revealed the man was deceased prior to the first responder arrival,” stated Nicholas Prange, an LAFD spokesperson, in a statement on October 30.

According to Perry’s autopsy report, his live-in personal assistant was the last individual to see him alive that afternoon, following his return from playing pickleball. The assistant had left Perry’s residence for several hours to run errands and discovered his body at 4 p.m. Responding officers officially pronounced him dead at 4:17 p.m.

The autopsy noted that there were no pills, drugs, or medications in proximity to the pool area. Furthermore, Perry did not have alcohol or drugs such as methamphetamine, cocaine, heroin, and fentanyl in his system.

The role of ‘elevated levels of ketamine’ in Matthew Perry’s demise

The autopsy, conducted the day following his passing, characterizes Perry as a “54-year-old male with a history of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease/emphysema, diabetes; prior drug use — reportedly clean for 19 months; extensive tobacco use for many years but currently abstaining; undergoing ketamine infusion therapy with the most recent session approximately one and a half weeks before death.”

The medical examiner highlights that the concentration of ketamine, a “dissociative anesthetic,” discovered in his system reached as high as 3,540 nanograms per milliliter; the report notes that “levels for general anesthesia are typically in the 1,000-6,000 ng/ml ranges.”

Although Perry was “said to be undergoing ketamine infusion therapy for depression and anxiety,” the report notes, “the ketamine in his system at the time of death could not be attributed to that infusion therapy, given that ketamine has a half-life of 3 to 4 hours, or less.” The specific method of ketamine intake remains unclear.

“The elevated levels of ketamine found in his postmortem blood specimens suggest that the primary lethal effects would result from both cardiovascular overstimulation and respiratory depression,” the report details. “The occurrence of drowning is attributed to the probability of submersion into the pool as he became unconscious, while coronary artery disease contributes due to the exacerbation of ketamine-induced myocardial effects on the heart.”

Buprenorphine, present at “therapeutic” levels, is also noted as a contributing factor due to “additional respiratory effects when coexisting with high levels of ketamine.” Additionally, there were non-toxic levels of lorazepam.

What are the effects of ketamine?

Ketamine, an anesthetic approved by the FDA, has gained recognition over the past few decades for its rapid-acting antidepressant properties. In 2019, the FDA officially sanctioned esketamine, a ketamine nasal spray, for the treatment of depression—specifically, major depressive disorder with suicidal ideation and treatment-resistant depression, signifying cases where at least two alternative antidepressant treatments were ineffective.

Dr. Nolan Williams, an assistant professor in Stanford University’s Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, explained to USA TODAY that the precise impact of ketamine on mood remains unclear due to the simultaneous occurrence of multiple mechanisms. Unlike affecting dopamine or serotonin, neuroscience studies suggest that ketamine targets the neurotransmitter glutamate, fostering the brain’s ability to establish enduring, new behavioral patterns.

Some experts speculate that the dissociative nature of a ketamine “trip” may contribute to alleviating depressive symptoms. While there is no direct evidence linking the trip to mood improvement, Dr. Alexander Papp, a board-certified psychiatrist and voluntary clinical professor at UC San Diego, notes that some patients attribute their enhanced outlook on life to ketamine’s psychedelic aspects.

How is ketamine misused? And what is ‘Special K’?

Ketamine, initially recognized as a painkiller with sedative properties and a treatment for depression, has also gained notoriety as a “club drug” capable of inducing “dissociative sensations and hallucinations,” according to the Drug Enforcement Administration.

Having first captured attention as a counterculture drug in the 1970s, ketamine re-emerged as a club drug referred to as “Special K” in the 2000s.

What occurs in ketamine therapy?

Dr. Amanda Itzkoff, a psychiatrist, notes that each session in ketamine therapy is tailored to the individual patient, but a standard treatment typically involves sessions twice a week for four weeks, followed by once a week for an additional four weeks. While legal administration methods include oral ingestion or intravenous injection, the only FDA-approved approach so far is intranasal ketamine.

During a session, individuals often undergo an altered, trancelike experience lasting approximately one or two hours. They may also receive guidance through talk therapy, commonly referred to as ketamine-assisted therapy.

Dr. Itzkoff emphasizes the importance of creating a controlled and secure setting during these vulnerable moments, stating, “When (patients) are in a very vulnerable state, we’re often trying to help them access different types of feelings. That is most easily done when you have a very controlled, very safe setting.” To ensure the patient’s comfort, she mentions offering options such as “dimming the lights, preparing music, or providing eye shades,” as ketamine may induce dizziness.

Was Matthew Perry sober?

Matthew Perry, candid about his struggles with alcohol and drugs, chronicled his journey in the 2022 memoir “Friends, Lovers and the Big Terrible Thing.” Despite facing a near-fatal battle, Perry displayed resilience and determination in his ongoing fight.

At the time of his passing, Perry’s autopsy revealed the absence of substances such as alcohol, methamphetamine, cocaine, heroin, PCP, and fentanyl. Jennifer Aniston recently shared that Perry was in a positive state in his personal life before his demise, emphasizing, “He was happy. He was healthy. He had quit smoking. He was getting in shape. He was happy — that’s all I know. I was literally texting with him that morning, funny Matty. He was not in pain. He wasn’t struggling.”

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