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Champaign Central Chronicle

Matthew Perry: Addiction in Hollywood

Matthew Perry: Addiction in Hollywood

On October 28, Matthew Perry was pronounced dead in his Los Angeles home after drowning in his hot tub. Perry is best known for his role as Chandler Bing in the hit 90’s show Friends. But his life wasn’t always a success, off screen he struggled heavily with addiction.  

In Perry’s 2022 memoir he wrote “Addiction is far too powerful for anyone to defeat alone. But together, one day at a time, we can beat it down,”. Throughout Perry’s early life in Hollywood, he was addicted to alcohol, Vicodin, and Oxycontin. He continued to go to rehab on more than one occasion, and by his early forties, he declared himself sober. 

After he became sober, Perry also devoted a lot of his time to trying to help other people dealing with substance abuse. He lobbied Congress to provide $45 million to fund “drug courts,” in which nonviolent drug offenders get “sentenced” to treatment instead of jail time. He even converted his Malibu home into a sober living home called Perry House. 

His death has sparked the conversation about the role of addiction in Hollywood. Many other celebrities have seen the same path of addiction as Matthew Perry, like Robert Downy Jr and Lindsay Lohan. 

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Robert Downy Jr. is a very famous actor, most known for his role as Iron Man. Many fans don’t know that he was an addict. He was arrested in 1996 for the possession of cocaine and heroin. He was put on parole but continued to abuse drugs which led to his being sentenced to three years of prison in 1999. However, when speaking about addiction he said “It’s like I have a loaded gun in my mouth, and I like the taste of metal.” He still earned roles after this, even getting cast in a show right when he was released early in 2000.

Lindsay Lohan started as a model and actor in advertisements but later gained fame when she did the Disney movie The Parent Trap. She moved to California as a teenager to continue her career which is when she became addicted to cocaine, amphetamines, and prescription drugs. Her addiction led to numerous legal issues, including arrests for DUI and possession of cocaine. However, unlike Robert Downey Jr., Lohan wasn’t able to easily get new jobs in Hollywood because her image was tainted by the addiction.

But these aren’t the only actors who have struggled with addiction like Matthew Perry. There are countless stories of people who rose to fame in Hollywood, and quickly had it taken away because of addiction. So why? Why is addiction such a large issue in Hollywood?  

Students Jaylee Elsts and Abby McKendall agree that one cause is “the great pressure forced on celebrities to be perfect.” For Matthew Perry who started his career off with a hit show like Friends, it was difficult to live up to that in the fans’ eyes. Lindsay Lohan also struggled with the same thing being a child actor who aged and no longer got cast as much. 

Senior student Sarah McKendall said that “drugs and alcohol are way too easy for the average person to get and especially for celebrities.” The Association of American Medical Colleges found that over 21.2 million Americans have a substance use disorder. For celebrities with more money and connections than average Americans, it’s even easier for them to fall into addiction.  Abby McKendall also said, “With the pressure of other celebrities doing drugs and alcohol, it’s hard for them to not feel peer pressured.” 

Perry’s story along with so many others puts a direct spotlight on the culture of addiction in our society, especially in Hollywood, and how we contribute to it.  After his death, Perry’s family started the Matthew Perry Foundation to help more people struggling with addiction. One thing he said before he passed: “I want [helping people] to be the first thing that’s mentioned, and I’m gonna live the rest of my life proving that.” His legacy will reflect that.

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