Friends' Matthew Perry Explains How His Addictions Can Be Tracked Through The Series

It hasn’t been a secret for a long time that Matthew Perry struggled with addiction during his 10-year run as Chandler Bing on Friends. In the years that the sitcom aired on NBC from 1994 to 2004, fans watched the actor’s weight fluctuate, and it wasn’t hard to guess that something wasn’t right. Perry has cleared a lot of that up himself in his memoir Friends, Lovers and the Big Terrible Thing, which was released in November and paints a very somber picture of what he’s been through. He even explained how his different addictions could be tracked through the series.

Matthew Perry certainly didn’t sugarcoat anything regarding his addiction in Friends, Lovers and the Big Terrible Thing, admitting that at one point he was taking 55 Vicodin a day and saying he spent millions of dollars going in and out of rehab. Over the course of the series, the actor said his weight fluctuated “between 128 pounds and 225 pounds,” depending on which addiction he was fighting. He explained in the memoir (via Page Six): 

You can track the trajectory for my addiction if you gauge my weight from season to season. When I’m carrying weight, it’s alcohol; when I’m skinny, it’s pills. When I have a goatee, it’s lots of pills.

I can appreciate a little self-deprecating humor at the expense of that questionable goatee, but that’s a pretty sad admission all the same. In fact, Matthew Perry said Season 9 was the lone stretch that he remained sober the whole way through, though his troubles remained once the cameras stopped rolling in 2004. In 2019 the actor was in the hospital for five months — spending two weeks in a coma — after his colon burst, requiring a life-saving ostomy surgery

He also described how being on Friends possibly saved his life in 2021, after his heart stopped for five minutes during surgery when the anesthesia reacted badly with the opioids he’d taken the night before. A doctor performed CPR for the full five minutes, apparently saying he didn’t want “the guy from Friends” dying on his table. 

Friends: The Reunion filmed in April of that year, and many fans voiced concern that Matthew Perry’s speech had been slurred. On the special, Perry dropped a bombshell when he revealed the anxiety and intense pressure he’d felt to make the audience laugh. Jennifer Aniston said they hadn’t understood the level of self-torture he experienced. She did, however, know about the substance abuse, as the Chandler Bing actor recalled in an interview with Diane Sawyer the day Aniston had confronted him about his drinking.

Friends is as beloved today as it was when it went off the air nearly two decades ago, but knowing some of the darkness experienced behind the scenes — and being able to tell where Matthew Perry was in his addiction — is pretty heartbreaking. All ten seasons of Friends, including the reunion special, are available to stream with an HBO Max subscription, and be sure to check out our 2023 TV schedule to see what shows are premiering in the new year. 

Heidi Venable
Content Producer

Mom of two and hard-core '90s kid. Unprovoked, will quote Friends in any situation. Thrives on New Orleans Saints football, The West Wing and taco trucks.