In the year leading up to Matthew Perry’s shocking October 28, 2023, death, it seemed that the 54-year-old Friends star — who had long struggled with addiction — was on the up and up. While promoting his memoir, Friends, Lovers, and the Terrible Thing, in September 2022, he revealed he was 18 months clean. Filmmaker Adam McKay, who had cast Perry in 2021’s Don’t Look Up before the actor had to pull out due to a medical emergency, said Perry had plans for an ambitious superhero comeback project. Athenna Crosby, a model and entertainment reporter, had met Perry for lunch at the Hotel Bel-Air the day before he died. “He was talking about how excited he was to have a second act,” Crosby told Us on November 1. “He was in a positive place and being extra healthy.”
But Perry’s autopsy report soon indicated otherwise. The 29-page document, released on December 15, revealed that the beloved actor, who was found face down in the hot tub at his Pacific Palisades, California, home, had died from “acute effects of ketamine.” While Perry had been on ketamine infusion therapy to treat depression, the medical examiner concluded the drugs in his system — equivalent to the amount used during general anesthesia — couldn’t have been from his last known therapy session, a week and a half before he died, suggesting that he may have been using the drug recreationally. (The autopsy docs stated that Perry had been reportedly clean for 19 months.)
An insider tells Us those who knew Perry best were not surprised: “Everybody close to Matthew was saying he died from an overdose.” The insider adds that some friends believed Perry never got proper help for his mental health. “The way he dealt with that was to isolate. Since [Friends ended], he was set financially and didn’t have to work, so it created an environment to use.”
Three sources with close knowledge of the situation tell Us that Perry had been lying about his sobriety both during the promotional tour for his memoir and in the time leading up to his death, and that his continuing abuse of prescription drugs was not the only troubling behavior he was covering up. “He was verbally, emotionally and physically abusive,” claims one source, who calls Perry a “manipulative” person. “All he knew how to do was cause pain and play the victim.” A second source insists Perry “wasn’t a horrible human being. [But] he was so warped in his addiction that he wasn’t himself and the man he should be.” (Former representatives for Perry did not respond to emailed requests for comment on this story.)
In March 2022, the first and second sources say, a confrontation over Perry’s substance abuse allegedly escalated into a physical assault against Morgan Moses, 37, the actor’s best friend of seven years and occasional sober companion. (Moses declined to comment on the story.) The second source says that on the day of the incident at Perry’s L.A. home, the actor had become “irate” after he was confronted about being high on prescription drugs. “He threw [Moses] into a wall and threw something at her and shoved her onto a bed,” claims the first source, who says Perry had been known to punch walls, flip tables and throw things during angry outbursts. “This time, he took threats and hints of violence into actual violence.” After the incident, the source adds, “he still said, ‘If I wanted to hurt you, I would have.’”
The second source says Moses quickly left following the alleged assault and that Perry was “mortified” over what had transpired. He then called his and Moses’ mutual friends in a bid to smooth things over. “He was panicking because the person who was always by his side had left him,” explains the source, adding that the two tried to maintain a friendship but ultimately couldn’t get past the alleged incident.
“Morgan was his best friend, and he burned that to the ground. He pushed her to her absolute breaking point,” says the first source. “Everyone just wanted him to be OK, and he was awful … He would get pissed off about little things and then flip the narrative about what really happened to make himself the victim. [He would] escalate the situation so he could say, ‘Poor me. I’ve been hurt, and you abandoned me.’ He put people on a ride from hell.”
Moses was not the only person to witness the actor’s dark side. According to the first source, an ex-girlfriend of Perry’s who was in her early 20s at the time of their relationship, and who Us Weekly has chosen not to identify, threatened to sue him in 2020 for emotional and psychological abuse and even enlisted the help of a high-profile legal firm. “She claimed that he was abusive and got her addicted to drugs, including oxycodone and painkillers,” says the source, adding that the former girlfriend allegedly had evidence to support her claims and that she and Perry ended up settling.
The second source as well as a third source close to that ex corroborate the first source’s account of what happened between the pair. “Their relationship was on and off for a few years. They were done by 2020. The substance abuse was a big part of the breakup [and] it did turn tumultuous,” says the third source, noting that while Perry and the ex did meet in rehab, she wasn’t using drugs or opioids until her relationship with the star. “The age difference of someone in their early 20s and late 40s and early 50s — there’s a power play in that. I think he took a lot of advantage of her because he got her hooked on drugs.”
The third source says the ex threatened litigation for emotional distress and “the manipulation involved [with him] getting her hooked on opioids. There was money involved. She settled [and] there was an NDA. I think it was a way for her not [to be able to] share her experiences with him.” (Us Weekly was not able to independently confirm a lawsuit or settlement.)
According to the first source, others in Perry’s life also made allegations about the actor behind the scenes. The source claims that one of his nurses even left the profession because she was so traumatized by her experience with him: “He was cruel.… He had to pay for a lot of women to go to therapy. He left a lot of destruction.”
Perry could be reckless when under the influence. “Apparently, he crashed his Aston Martin many times while high,” says the first source, noting that the alleged accidents happened during a time that Perry had claimed to be sober. “He just damaged the car and no one was hurt, [but] he did not consider [that] he could have killed someone.” The talk about being sober both in and while promoting his memoir “was a lie,” adds the first source. “He wanted to sell books. Everything was crafted and manipulated; the truth wasn’t important.”
According to the second source, nothing would have shocked anyone who was genuinely close to Perry when it came to his substance abuse. “Addicts are smart, and Matthew was brilliant,” the source tells Us, claiming that the star would meet young women on the dating app Raya and convinced some of them to supply him with drugs. “He would do the FaceTime thing and get to know them. Then it would be like, ‘Let’s hang out,’ and he would say [to come to his house],” explains the source. “He wasn’t out in public anymore. That’s how he snuck things past people.”
By many accounts, Perry spent his final years relatively isolated. “He was living locked up and not reaching out to [people],” says the insider. “That was his pattern when he used. He would cut himself off from everyone.” The insider adds that the actor was plagued with disappointment over his post-Friends career and love life. “He wanted a family and never found that person to settle down with. It was a tale of loneliness and how having all the money and fame can’t save anyone.” The second source agrees Perry was eager to have a family: “He wanted consistency. As much as he was a loner, he didn’t want to be.”
Four days before the release of Perry’s autopsy report, Variety published an interview with Jennifer Aniston where she expressed her shock and sadness over Perry’s death. “I was literally texting with him that morning, funny Matty. He was not in pain. He wasn’t struggling. He was happy,” she told the publication through tears. “He worked so hard. He really was dealt a tough one.”
Despite filming with Aniston, Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc and David Schwimmer for a decade, the stars may not have known Perry as well as they believed. “He lied to all of them about so many things over the years,” says the first source, who adds that Perry’s feelings about his peers were complicated. “He had so much respect for them, but he [didn’t always] have positive things to say about them. He felt inferior [to them], so when he spoke negatively, it came from that insecurity.”
The source says one thing Perry was “jealous” of was that his costars weren’t addicts: “Matthew viewed himself and the cast as winning the same lottery with the show’s success. They reaped the benefits of fame and fortune, but they didn’t have to deal with the pain of addiction. [There were times] he resented them for that.”
As with so many caught in the grips of addiction, the star’s demons ended up being his downfall. The charismatic, supremely talented person that the world saw onscreen and in interviews “is who he really was,” says the second source of Perry. “He just became someone else because of his addiction. People still deeply cared for him in spite of his disease and lived for the hope that he would remain sober.”
In late 2022, Perry, who had previously established a men’s sober living facility that ran for two years, told podcast host Tom Power that he wanted to be remembered as someone whose “paramount thing is that he wants to help people.” In the days following the actor’s death, the Matthew Perry Foundation was established in his name to assist those struggling with addiction. “[Perry] had everyone and everything, he just didn’t know what to do with it,” says the first source. “He could’ve saved the world, but he couldn’t save himself. [Now] his foundation can actually help people.”
If you or someone you know are struggling with addiction or mental health, contact the national Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration at samhsa.gov or 1-800-662-HELP.