Still Alive To Tell The Terrible Tale Of Opioid Addiction

Matthew Perry, the actor who is most notably recognized as the character Chandler Bing that he played in the long-running Friends sitcom, has published a book entitled, Friends, Lovers, and the Big Terrible Thing. The “big terrible thing” in Mr. Perry’s life is his addiction to opioids.

Perry’s addiction to opioids began, like most people’s do, after being injured in a jet ski accident after which he was prescribed Vicodin by his doctor. In fact, research shows that “people are 240% more likely to become persistent users of opioids after suffering an injury than those prescribed opioids who did not have an injury.”

According to an article published on the Alternative Pain Treatment website, “It didn’t take long for Perry to become addicted to Vicodin. Within 18 months, he was taking as many as 55 pills a day (the maximum daily dose is 6 pills). He went to great lengths to get opioids, faking injuries, and scheduling MRIs with different doctors. Perry became so desperate for drugs that he would go to real estate open houses so he could search through people’s medicine cabinets.”

Addiction Can Occur After 5 Days Of Regular Opioid Use

As some experts point out in the same article, opioid addiction can occur after just 5 days of regular use. So, as you can see, it doesn’t take long at all. When you consider that 2.5 million young adults reported misusing opioids in the past year, it’s easy to see how out of control opioids are.

As he points out in his book, Perry’s many years of drug abuse took a terrible toll on his body. In 2018, Perry’s colon ruptured due to his overuse of OxyContin. He went into a coma for two weeks before spending the next five months in the hospital. Although given just a 2 percent chance of survival, Perry recovered. It is also noted that, “He has had 14 surgeries and used a colostomy bag for nearly a year. Perry has attended 6,000 AA meetings, gone to rehab 15 times, been in detox 65 times, and spent as much as $9 million to get sober.”

Perry’s Battle Isn’t Over

While I wish him well, and based on his history, even though Perry has survived despite the odds being against him, there’s no assurances that he will stay clean. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, there is a 40 to 60 percent relapse rate among those who seek substance abuse treatment.  

Perry is able to tell his tale because he has the luxury of resources most people do not have access to. According to the National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics, the cost of the “cheapest” medical detoxification programs is $1,750.  The “cheapest” inpatient rehabilitation programs cost a staggering $6,000 a month. A 3-month outpatient rehabilitation programs costs about $5,000. 

American Addiction Centers estimate that only one in ten people suffering from a substance use disorder get the appropriate treatment they need. Unfortunately, payment issues and lack of insurance are among the reasons for this disparity.

Although the Affordable Care Act mandates that all health insurance plans provide some type of coverage for substance abuse treatment, the amount that is covered varies based on individual plans. Families often go bankrupt trying to help their loved ones recover.

And still, doctors and other health care providers still prescribe highly addictive pain medications at rates considered unsafe.

I do hope Mr. Perry will do some greater good with his life and the proceeds his book garners. Perhaps he can donate to some families who were not so lucky and went bankrupt trying to help their loved ones who died from opioid overdose. I pray he stays clean and works tirelessly to get involved in helping the powers that be see the need for greater access to the appropriate care for those addicted to opioids.

Mr. Perry is without question, lucky. Other celebrities that weren’t as fortunate include Prince, Seymour Phillip Hoffman, and Tom Petty among so many others. And let’s not forget the millions of other Americans who are not rich and famous. No one is excluded from the deadly consequences that come with opioid addiction.


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