Matthew Perry reveals he almost died four years ago from opioid overuse: ‘I’m grateful to be alive’

‘The doctors told my family that I had a 2 per cent chance to live,’ the actor recalled

Amber Raiken
New York
Wednesday 19 October 2022 18:35 BST
Related: Matthew Perry reveals title of memoir

Matthew Perry has spoken out about his history with drug addiction and revealed that he almost died four years ago from an opioid overuse.

The 53-year-old actor discussed his newest memoir, Friends, Lovers, And The Big Terrible Thing, which is centred on his issues with substance and alcohol abuse, during an interview with People for the publication’s latest cover story.

Perry shared that his memoir begins with his realisation that he nearly died at the age of 49, when his colon burst from opioid overuse. He said he then spent two weeks in a coma, five months in a hospital, and nine months using a colostomy bag.

He went on to recall what happened when he was first admitted to the hospital at the time, explaining: “The doctors told my family that I had a 2 per cent chance to live. I was put on a thing called an ECMO machine, which does all the breathing for your heart and your lungs. And that’s called a Hail Mary. No one survives that.”

The Friends star also spoke candidly about his relapses and noted that he’s been to rehab over 15 times before poking fun at how he’s stayed healthy.

“I’m pretty healthy now. I’ve got to not go to the gym much more, because I don’t want to only be able to play superheroes,” he joked. “But no, I’m a pretty healthy guy right now.”

Although he chose not to share how long he’s been sober for, he did explain even when someone does “lose [their] sobriety”, they do not “lose all that time and education” gained from it.

“Your sober date changes, but that’s all that changes,” Perry explained. “You know everything you knew before, as long as you were able to fight your way back without dying, you learn a lot.”

Perry noted that his book discusses other points where he was concerned about his own survival, which is something he hopes that people who have struggled with drug addiction can “relate” to.

“I think [readers will] be surprised at how bad it got at certain times and how close to dying I came,” he explained. “I say in the book that if I did die, it would shock people, but it wouldn’t surprise anybody. And that’s a very scary thing to be living with. So my hope is that people will relate to it, and know that this disease attacks everybody. It doesn’t matter if you’re successful or not successful, the disease doesn’t care.”

He also detailed his gratitude for his sobriety journey and what has surprised him the most about it.

“I’m an extremely grateful guy. I’m grateful to be alive, that’s for sure. And that gives me the possibility to do anything,” Perry said. “What I’m most surprised with is my resilience. The way that I can bounce back from all of this torture and awfulness. Wanting to tell the story, even though it’s a little scary to tell all your secrets in a book, I didn’t leave anything out. Everything’s in there.”

Elsewhere in the interview, he described a difficult point in his life while starring on Friends when he was down to 128 pounds and taking 55 Vicodin a day.

“I didn’t know how to stop,”  he explained “If the police came over to my house and said, ‘If you drink tonight, we’re going to take you to jail,’ I’d start packing. I couldn’t stop because the disease and the addiction is progressive. So it gets worse and worse as you grow older.”

However, he said that throughout his condition at the time, his castmates on the sitcom were “understanding” and “patient”.

“I’s like penguins. Penguins, in nature, when one is sick, or when one is very injured, the other penguins surround it and prop it up,” Perry added. “They walk around it until that penguin can walk on its own. That’s kind of what the cast did for me.”

If you or someone you know is suffering from drug addiction, you can seek confidential help and support 24-7 from Frank, by calling 0300 123 6600, texting 82111, sending an email or visiting their website here.

In the US, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration can be reached at 1-800-662-HELP.

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