People magazine published an article in their January 8th, 2024 print issue about Matthew Perry’s cause of death. The L.A. County medical examiner’s office concluded his cause of death was from acute effects of ketamine. The actor had been on ketamine infusion therapy for anxiety and depression, however, “the amount found in his body was far more than typically given during treatments at a clinic.” The death was ruled accidental.
In response of this tragic accident, many have been questioning the safety and efficacy of ketamine as a treatment for depression. Our founder and Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Abid Nazeer, FASAM, weighed in to clear up any confusion or concern. Read the full interview below.
Dr. Abid K. Nazeer M.D., FASAM is a practicing psychiatrist with board certifications in both psychiatry and addiction medicine. He is a medical advisor for several companies including Healing Maps and Speranza Therapeutics and has held multiple other medical director or leadership positions in healthcare. In 2016, Dr. Nazeer founded APS Ketamine (now Hopemark Health), pioneering the first dedicated outpatient psychiatric based ketamine clinic in the Midwest. Since then, we have successfully completed over 5,000 IV ketamine treatments for mental health and substance use disorders in a comprehensive care model.
Dr. Nazeer is regarded as an expert in the clinical application of ketamine within the psychiatric setting and provides peer education about ketamine topics such as screening, assessment, quality assurance, billing, and standards of care.
Read the Interview
“What is ketamine?
Since its development in the 1960s as a human and animal anesthetic, ketamine has become a promising treatment for depression and anxiety as well as an illicit party drug.
How is it used for therapy?
In ketamine therapy, low doses of the drug are typically administered via IV in a clinical setting to manage various mental health conditions. ‘It’s still being studied, but there is a lot of research supporting how effective ketamine can be for PTSD, substance use disorders, suicidal thoughts, depression,’ says Dr. Abid Nazeer, founder of Hopemark Health clinics.
What did the level of ketamine in Perry’s system suggest?
‘Ketamine in a clinic setting is not what caused Perry’s death,’ says Nazeer. ‘The death was high levels of ketamine in an unsupervised setting at home.’ The autopsy suggests Perry ‘took anywhere from five to 20 times higher than what we give for depression and psychiatric conditions at the clinic,’ he notes.
Why did the FDA warn about ketamine use?
In October, the FDA issued an alert that ketamine should only be used while a patient is being monitored by a doctor and warned that telemedicine prescriptions and formulations created for home are risky. ‘Taking a lozenge or a nasal spray, you have varying degrees of how much gets into the body,’ says Nazeer.
What are the risks of ketamine?
‘If someone took ketamine in unsafe environments or recreationally, and took it in large quantities, then it can have harm. It can itself become addictive. But in a supervised setting, it can help,’ says Nazeer.”