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Matthew Perry is no stranger to the White House — he played one of the president’s counsels on The West Wing — or, for that matter, to politics, since his Canadian mother was Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau’s press secretary.
It’s hard to believe, though, that he ever could have anticipated the real-life role he played Monday when he went to the executive mansion to receive a Champion of Recovery award from the Obama Administration’s Office of National Drug Control Policy. The popular comedic actor was honored not only for his outspoken support of President Barack Obama’s effort to make rehabilitation-centered local drug courts a key component of the nation’s approach to combating addiction, but also for his frank discussion of his own experience with prescription drug addiction and recovery.
U.S. drug czar Gil Kerlikowske presented the award to Perry at a meeting attended by Obama’s senior adviser Valerie Jarrett and others. The certificate of appreciation lauds the actor for “giving a voice to the millions of Americans in recovery.”
Perry called the ONDCP honor “surreal.” “During my darkest times, I never could of imagined receiving an award at the White House,” he told The Hollywood Reporter.
Perry became hooked on prescription painkillers, which he frequently mixed with alcohol during the height of his success as part of the ensemble cast of the hit TV show Friends. After two trips to recovery, he has become a frequent public speaker on the perils of prescription drugs, national drug policy and his own experience with recovery. Six years ago, Perry met West Huddleston, head of the National Association of Drug Court Professionals, who inspired him to join the national movement advocating for alternative sentencing strategies that place nonviolent drug offenders in treatment programs rather than prison.
“Had I been arrested, I would be sitting in prison somewhere with a tattoo on my face,” Perry tells THR. “I’m very lucky that I never got arrested.”
After the White House meeting, Perry joined drug court advocates in speaking at a Capitol Hill briefing with Congressional Caucus on Prescription Drug Abuse. He also managed to write a blog post for the Office of National Drug Control Policy.
“Over time, I learned that drug courts are a wonderful solution to one of the biggest problems facing our criminal justice system: people suffering from substance-use disorders who are caught in the cycle of arrest and incarceration,” Perry wrote in the post that appeared on the White House website. “Many of these individuals require treatment, not a jail cell, and drug courts provide them a means of getting the treatment they need.”
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