A YOUNG father and university student described by his mum as a “loveable rogue” died after self-medicating his ADHD condition and anxiety with a cocktail of un-prescribed drugs.

At a hearing yesterday (Monday, August 13) Gwent Coroner’s Court heard that Ralph Burrows, 24, of Mynyddbach, near Chepstow, had been given a new lease of life when his two-year-old was born.

His mum, Sandra Burrows, explained to the court that before becoming a father her son had been “a drifter”.

“He really wanted to be a good father,” said Ms Burrows.

“That’s what spurred him to go to university. He did a two year course in Bristol to get the required grades, but did so well that he was accepted to Plymouth University after just a year.

“He just wanted to be able to provide for his son.”

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But the added academic pressures on Ralph combined with being away from his young son for long periods of time turned out to be a double edged sword.

Ralph was first formally diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in 2006, and had suffered with anxiety and sleeping disorders for most of his life.

But the court heard he had not been prescribed any medication by doctors at home or in Plymouth.

“He self-medicated,” explained Ms Burrows.

“He used alcohol and other substances, which I wish I could have appreciated earlier. I’ve since come to understand that certain substances which others use to get high can have a calming influence of ADHD sufferers.”

Ms Burrows went on to tell the court she would regularly get phone calls from her son when his condition became too much, and they would often go to pick him up from university to recover at home for a few days.

Ralph phoned home on February 13 to ask his parents to transfer him money. The court heard he called again in the early hours of February 14 and asked his parents to collect him.

When his parents arrived, they found him in a normal condition, other than noticing he had been drinking. Ralph slept most of the way home, and his mother described him as cold to touch.

Once home, Ms Burrows put Ralph to bed fully clothed with a hot water bottle and a glass of water.

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But when she checked on him at around 7pm on Friday 14, he was unconscious, cold and in the same position she had left him.

Emergency services were not able to resuscitate Ralph, and he was pronounced dead. Police attending the scene found a bottle of brown liquid and Xanax tablets in the student’s rucksack.

Consultant pathologist Dr J Harrison’s post-mortem found traces of Alprazolam, also known as Xanax, and other opiate drugs, including morphine, in his system. The pathologist noted both drugs had been taken recently.

Ms Burrows told the court: "As a family we feel quite strongly that this was a tragic accident with a young man trying to cope with ADHD and stress.

"He was self medicating, and on this occasion he just got it wrong."

Both Alprazolam and opiates such as morphine can act to slow down breathing, explained Ms James. She added that if Ralph had an undiagnosed intolerance to morphine, taking Alprazolam on top of it could have stopped him breathing as he slept.

Recording a verdict of death by misadventure, Ms James said there was no evidence that Ralph took the drugs to end his life.

“At the time of his death he was going through a crisis period.

“He didn’t tell anyone he had suicidal thoughts or ideas. There was no note, and he had a supportive and loving family and a son that he loved entirely.

“While he consumed alcohol and other drugs it appears this took a sudden and unexpected turn which then led to his death.

“It appears he turned to these substances to help manage his ADHD but did not appreciate that in doing so he would be putting his own life in danger.”