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  • Celeste Bueno Mazoni

How Matthew Perry’s Lifelong Addiction Illustrates One of United State’s Most Critical Problems

Matthew Perry on Nov. 17, 2022. PHOTO: GREGG-DEGUIRE/FILMMAGIC-

“I've had a lot of ups and downs in my life and a lot of wonderful accolades. I'm still working through it personally, but the best thing about me is that if an alcoholic or drug addict comes up to me and says, ‘Will you help me?’ I will say, ‘Yes. I know how to do that.’” This sentence stated by Matthew Perry, who recently died at the age of 54, reveals the tragic side of chemical dependency and its effect on people's lives.

Throughout the years, we have seen Perry portray the charming Chandler Bing, whom the whole world has grown to love and adore in the renowned TV-series Friends. Despite his success, off-screen the actor suffered from a lifelong opioid addiction, which illustrates what has become a problem in the US much larger than Perry’s case.

The actor revealed that after suffering a jet-ski accident he started abusing his prescription medication, mainly opioids for the pain, which resulted in him ingesting more than 55 pills every day. During the highest points of his career, Perry frequently visited treatment centers to try to sober up, but his journey for abstinence revealed itself to be a lifelong struggle. After many attempts and relapses, the acknowledgement of this impactful problem led to the creation of a sober living facility inside the former house of the actor. Similar to the celebrity, millions of citizens in the United States suffer from opioid addiction.

The opioid crisis, also referred to as the opioid epidemic, is the abrupt and rapid increase of the misuse, overuse, and the overdose deaths caused by a class of drugs called opioids. The foremost problem in this situation was the careless way through which the drug was legalized and promoted by doctors and health centers during its development, which caused many patients to become addicted.

During the mid 1990s, a pharmaceutical company named Purdue Pharma promoted a powerful agent labeled as OxyContin, which was inexplicably approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) since that agent triggered the first step to what would become one of the most devastating health catastrophes of our time. The OxyContin stimulated the first wave of multiple deaths that were linked to the legal prescription of opioids. Later on, a second wave of investigations occurred, revealing numerous deaths due to the consumption of illegal synthetic opioids, which have been the center of the epidemic of lethal overdose. Synthetic opioids lead to approximately 110 thousand deaths in the US per year, 75 thousand of which are due to fentanyl, a pain-relieving synthetic opioid.

The increase of the opioid addiction was influenced by the pharmaceutical companies that reassured buyers that the risks of opioid addiction were significantly low and claimed that it was safe to consume the medication. Since pharmaceutical companies were promoting the use of prescription opioids, by 1999 over 86% of patients were using opioids for non-cancer pain. Later, in 2010, the consumption of opioids became a shortcut for the use of other drugs like heroin, where over 80% of heroin users claimed to have misused prescription opioids before turning to heroin.

The opioid epidemic has only grown larger and more critical; since the 1990s, over three million US citizens have suffered from opioid use disorder. This addiction has become extremely frequent and it has become a part of the lives of far too many people, one of them being Matthew Perry. The famous actor spent most of his life focusing on getting sober, since it affected his personal and professional life. Most of his co-stars from Friends shared that seeing a close friend in such pain was extremely terrifying to watch and trying to get him to quit was a hard and hurtful situation which became frequent during the filming of the TV-show. This personal struggle of Perry’s became a serious topic since his drug addiction grew stronger than his will to quit, which is the case for many people in the US. After a lifelong battle, his knowledge about the issue inspired the actor to help others in the best way he could, so that others would be aware of addictive substances.

The opioid addiction has been and is a serious issue, with which the US has been suffering for a long time. It is important to raise awareness so that we, as a society, can grow closer to a possible solution--and so that the legacy of those like Mathew Perry is not forgotten.

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