'Friends’: 5 facts about Matthew Perry’s addiction battle

Matthew Perry on Conan (Image via IMDb)
Matthew Perry on Conan (Image via IMDb)

Friends may have ended 17 years ago but it still lives on in the hearts and on binge lists of people worldwide. The actors playing the iconic characters on the superhit sitcom instantly became heartthrobs who are revered to this day. One of the actors on the show, Matthew Perry, who played Chandler Bing, is also known for his tempestuous life outside of the show.

The star was most recently seen on the Friends Reunion special. His resigned appearance and slurred speech as compared to his energetic co-stars raised concerns about his well-being among fans. It was later clarified by director Ben Winston that he was great on the reunion episode and appeared healthier than ever.

Matthew Perry has had a very public battle with addiction and his struggles have been no secret. In fact, he is all set to release his new memoir reflecting on his battle with addiction and offering a behind-the-scenes look at Friends. According to Vanity Fair, the actor signed a seven-figure book deal with Flatiron Books for an autobiography to be published in the fall of 2022.

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Here are 5 lesser-known facts about Friends alum Matthew Perry's 20-year-long battle with addiction.


1) His addiction started with a jet ski accident while 'Friends' was airing

Three years after Friends debuted, in 1997, Matthew Perry got into a jet ski accident that eventually set off his addiction issues. He became totally dependent on Vicodin, which also led to a heavy amount of drinking.

In an interview with People, he admitted to downing an "insane number of pills – between 20 and 30 daily – and drinking a quart of vodka a day". He further told People:

"It wasn't my intention to have a problem with it. But from the start I liked how it made me feel, and I wanted to get more. I was out of control and very unhealthy.”

Perry's struggles with addiction also included two stints in rehab in 1997 and 2001 and a pancreatitis-related hospitalization in 2000. He spent 28 days at Hazelden Rehab Center in Minnesota in 1997 but failed to stay sober for long.

In 2000, the Friends actor relapsed and spent two weeks at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, where he underwent treatment for alcohol-related pancreatitis. Unfortunately, that still wasn't enough to get him to stop drinking. To make things worse, he crashed his Porsche into an unoccupied house after he was released from the hospital.


2) He forgot 3 years of 'Friends' due to his ongoing addiction

At the peak of his TV career, Matthew Perry was so removed from reality that he admitted to having no memory of filming multiple seasons of Friends. When asked about the details of the show during an interview with BBC Radio 2 in 2016, he said:

"I think the answer is, I don't remember three years of it. So none of those... somewhere between season three and six... I was a little out of it."

During his time on Friends, his co-stars had an idea about his struggles but it was largely kept under the radar. However, he told People that "eventually things got so bad that I couldn't hide it, and then everybody knew."

In between his rehab stints and his struggles with Vicodin, methadone, amphetamines, and alcohol addictions, Perry lost around 20 lbs. His shocking transformation due to fluctuating weight was apparent on Friends as his appearance changed drastically from season 6 to season 7.


3) He often arrived on the set of 'Friends' with a terrible hangover

In 2001, Matthew Perry hit rock-bottom. He had been drinking vodka by the quart and showing up to work with a terrible hangover, barely able to function. He also recalled sweating and shaking on the set of Friends after filming while going through a detox. He told US magazine:

"I had this rule that I would never drink on a set. But I went to work in extreme cases of hangover. It's so horrible to feel that way and have to work and be funny on top of that."

He finally had a moment of clarity in 2001 and made an emotional phone call to his parents asking for help. After spending two-and-a-half months in treatment, he realized "that a happy life is possible without alcohol or drugs". A year after getting sober, in 2002, the Friends alum told The New York Times:

"I didn't get sober because I felt like it. I got sober because I was worried I was going to die the next day."

4) He asked a porn star for drugs

In 2011, Matthew Perry issued a statement with TMZ, saying he voluntarily checked back into rehab to keep his sobriety in check. However, in 2017, he made headlines when Madison O'Reilly, a porn star, claimed that the Friends actor had pleaded with her to get him 40 or 50 prescription painkillers.

O'Reilly stated that she received a series of messages on Instagram from the Friends star asking her to help him purchase some pills. She also claimed that when she asked him what he'd be willing to pay, the actor replied, "It depends on which one (type of painkiller) is available. But... a lot."

O'Reilly told the Daily Mail:

"I am concerned for Matthew's well-being, we're having the same drugs problem back home in North Carolina, I've seen it destroy many people's lives. I would really hate to see something bad happen to him."

Perry remained mum about the claims. However, the Friends actor's journey of recovery hasn't been easy with all the health scares he had been facing. In 2018, Perry underwent emergency surgery due to gastrointestinal perforation.


5) He's more proud of helping people than he is of his career accomplishments

His personal struggle with addiction led Matthew Perry to become an avid spokesperson for drugs charities and he even lobbied in Congress in 2011 to gain support for sufferers. Two years later, he also converted his home in Malibu, California into Perry House, a sober-living facility for men.

In May 2013, the Friends star received a Champion of Recovery award from the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy for opening the Perry House. In 2015, he also received the Phoenix Rising Award for his efforts and joked to The Hollywood Reporter that he was an "award-winning alcoholic." He also said:

"I've had a lot of ups and downs in my life and a lot of wonderful accolades. But the best thing about me is that if an alcoholic comes up to me and says, 'Will you help me stop drinking?' I will say, 'Yes, I know how to do that.'"

As much as he would have liked to keep the business going, in 2016, he had to permanently shut down Perry House amid rumors that he was struggling in London while performing in the West End. However, the good news is that the 52-year-old Friends actor continues to focus on his sobriety and well-being.

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Edited by Prem Deshpande