‘Friends’ star Matthew Perry remembered for raising awareness about substance use disorder

LOS ANGELES –  Actor Matthew Perry was best known for playing Chandler onFriends,” but he also is being remembered for openly sharing his battle with substance use disorder.

The 54 year old actor died over the weekend at his home in Los Angeles. Several news outlets have reported that he was found unresponsive in a hot tub, but the medical examiner has not ruled a cause of death yet.

Perry wrote a 2022 memoir, “Friends, Lovers and the Big Terrible Thing,” where he detailed his decades-long struggle with substance use disorder. Perry wrote that his battle with alcohol addiction began at age 14 when he drank for the first time. 

“Drinkers think they are trying to escape, but really they are trying to overcome a mental disorder they didn’t know they had,” Perry wrote.

Perry also fell into opiate addiction when he was just 26 after doctors prescribed him Vicodin for an injury he sustained while filming “Fools Rush In.” Over the years, Perry estimated that he spent around $9 million with 15 rehab stays treating his addiction to drugs and alcohol. 

He explained that his pursuit of fame was fueled by a yearning for recognition, and even when his wildest dreams were realized, he found that the emptiness within him couldn’t be filled, leading him to turn to substances.

“Now, all these years later, I’m certain that I got famous so I would not waste my entire life trying to get famous. You have to get famous to know that it’s not the answer. And nobody who is not famous will ever truly believe that,” Perry wrote.

Among the revelations, Perry shared that he believed he had health complications because of his drug use, including an exploded colon that left him in a coma for two weeks. He also said that in 2020 paramedics administered CPR to him to save his life after he took hydrocodone the night before a surgery that used propofol.

“Apparently, the propofol had stopped my heart. For five minutes. It wasn’t a heart attack – I didn’t flatline – but nothing had been beating. I was told that some beefy Swiss guy really didn’t want the guy from “Friends” dying on his table and did CPR on me for the full five minutes, beating and pounding my chest. If I hadn’t been on “Friends,” would he have stopped at three minutes?” Perry wrote.

Perry revealed that at one point while filming “Friends,” he drank a quart of vodka and 55 Vicodin pills daily. He also shared that he shot the final scene of “Friends” while on opioids.

Despite his struggles, Perry wanted his memoir to be a powerful message of hope and persistence. He detailed the peace he found in sobriety and wanted to extend a hand to anyone who was struggling.

“I am me. And that should be enough, it always has been enough. I was the one who didn’t get that. And now I do. I’m an actor, I’m a writer. I’m a person. And a good one at that. I want good things for myself, and others, and I can continue to work for these things. There is a reason I’m still here. And figuring out why is the task that has been put in front of me. And it will be revealed. There is no rush, no desperation. Just the fact that I am here, and I care about people, is the answer. Now when I wake up, I wake up curious, wondering what the world has in store for me, and I for it. And that’s enough to go on.”