'Acute effects of ketamine' linked to Matthew Perry's death: What to know about drug

"Friends" star Matthew Perry died due to "the acute effects of ketamine," according to the Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner.

In a statement the medical examiner's office added the manner of his death was an accident and that contributing factors included "drowning, coronary artery disease and the effects of buprenorphine." Perry died in at his Pacific Palisades home in October at 54 years old.

The autopsy conducted the day after his death mentioned that Perry had a history of drug use and was reportedly clean for 19 months. The report described him as a "tobacco user for many years but currently not smoking; on ketamine infusion therapy with most recent therapy reportedly one and a half weeks before death."

Matthew Perry arrives at the LA Premiere of "Ride" in Los Angeles on April 28, 2015.
Matthew Perry arrives at the LA Premiere of "Ride" in Los Angeles on April 28, 2015.

Perry was reportedly "receiving ketamine infusion therapy for depression and anxiety." The report categorized ketamine as "dissociative anesthetic," and mentioned that around 3,540 ng/ml was found in his system while noting the "levels for general anesthesia are typically in the 1,000-6,000 ng/ml ranges."

Here are some crucial information on ketamine infused therapy.

What is Ketamine?

Ketamine is defined as a dissociative anesthetic with some hallucinogenic effect by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. The medication alters the perception of sight and sound that makes users feel feel devoid from pain and out of control of their surroundings.

"Ketamine can induce a state of sedation (feeling calm and relaxed), immobility, relief from pain, and amnesia (no memory of events while under the influence of the drug) and is abused for the dissociative sensations and hallucinogenic effects," the DEA said. "Ketamine has also been used to facilitate sexual assault."

The approved medical product is used an injectable short-lasting anesthetic for people and animals as well as a nasal spray for treatment resistant depression.

How does ketamine work as an antidepressant?

An FDA-approved anesthetic, ketamine has been recognized as a fast-acting antidepressant drug for decades.

The FDA officially approved esketamine, or ketamine nasal spray, for depression in 2019. The medicine's purpose was to treat depressive disorder with suicidal ideation and treatment-resistant depression if at least two alternative antidepressant treatments failed.

Dr. Nolan Williams, an assistant professor in Stanford University's Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, told USA TODAY in 2022 that ketamine's effects on mood are not entirely clear due to "many mechanisms happening at once."

Ketamine targets a neurotransmitter called glutamate as opposed to dopamine or serotonin. Glutamate promotes the brain's ability to form lasting and new lifestyle patterns.

Ketamine is often stigmatized as 'the party drug'

Ketamine has a negative perception for many for being abused as a party drug and even garnered the nickname "Special K."

However, psychiatrists have said that ketamine can be a life-changing solution in a controlled medical setting for those unresponsive to conventional medications.

A 2000 landmark study showcased the drug's antidepressant and anti-suicidal effects, and more recent studies have supported ketamine's high rate of success in treating persistent depression.

Contributing: KiMi Robinson

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Ketamine effects: What to know about drug that killed Matthew Perry