For Matthew Perry, Ketamine was NOT the Murder Weapon

The last 24 hours has seen an avalanche of Ketamine headlines, leading people to look the wrong way.  In a world chasing clicks and sensationalism, nobody is telling the real story of what caused the tragic and untimely death of #MatthewPerry.   Does an unlit match cause forest fires? Not until combined with a strike plate and an accelerant.   

Since 1970 Ketamine has been in worldwide use as the go-to,  safe and effective anesthetic, even used for minor pediatric surgeries.  Then, it became a popular party drug, and when combined indiscriminately with other substances, contributed to some dangerous outcomes.  Even recreationally, Ketamine does not result in death without the presence of other substances.

Mr. Perry was using Buprenorphine to recover from addiction.  That powerful drug suppresses respiration (as do alcohol, opiates and other drugs), and is the essential ingredient in death when Ketamine is present.   I’m not a pathologist, but as an MD neuropsychiatrist and scientist, I’m shocked that media isn’t reporting the dangers of combining these drugs, instead relying on one simple and popular keyword: Ketamine.

Simply put: Lacking the presence of Buprenorphine, we wouldn’t be talking about Ketamine as a cause of death here.

Why does this irritate me so deeply?  Being misled by the media is always a sore spot.  But more, we’re seeing life changing benefits from the use of Ketamine in psychotherapy, and giving it an unwarranted bad name means fewer people will trust in it’s essential and safe use.  And, it gives the medical and insurance industries just one more reason not to sanction it.   

Ketamine is increasingly being used for treatment resistant depression and other illness, but the medical profession has a part to play in clarifying Ketamine and its usefulness too. It has to become more aware of the cellular and neural pathways and mechanisms that Ketamine acts on.  There is no science supporting its long term impact  or benefit to the patient as a stand-alone medication.  In the short term, it shuts down information coming from our senses, but enhances information coming from the parts of our brain containing subconscious memories into our frontal cortex.  When we use the action of ketamine to further reveal the subconscious and deeply hidden memories, and then ketamine is a door opener to therapy, it is an essential tool.   In and of itself, ketamine is not a cure.  Nor is it a villain.

At The Miletic Center, we calibrate the administration of ketamine to each patient with constant monitoring and adjustment.  Our NP sits with the patient constantly throughout the session, watching the effects on the body, the cardiovascular and respiratory systems, and the temperament of the patient before, during and after.   Both the administration and the ensuing therapy involve deep and important work, but the benefits have been life changing for my patients.   

Matthew Perry did so much for recovering addicts, and his final message to the world should not be distorted.  Safe and professionally managed tools are available.  They can work wonders.  They won’t kill you, despite the headlines.

Read more from Dr. Miletic about Ketamine here:

ABC News posted one of the few more balanced reports of Ketamine’s role in Matthew Perry’s death.  Find it here.