A “LOVELY and kind” Holbury student who secretly struggled to cope with university life died after taking an accidental drug overdose, an inquest ruled.
Aaron Wells (21) had likely consumed medication used by his cancer patient father and possibly his mother, who suffers with fibromyalgia, Winchester Coroner’s Court heard.
The inquest was told that hours before he died, Aaron revealed for the first time to his dad Tony that he had struggled with anxiety and depression while at the University of Essex.
He had also been having seizures which, unknown to his parents, may have been the result of him becoming reliant on over-the-counter tranquiliser Xanax to help him cope with his studying.
Coroner Rosamund Rhodes-Kemp ruled out the possibility of suicide and said Mr Wells’ death was accidental, stating it was a “horrible mistake”. She gave the cause as a mixture of bronchial pneumonia and drug overdose.
Mr Wells had returned home on 20th December last year and went out clubbing in Southampton with longtime friend Jordan Wheeler-Osman. Having returned home at about 3am the following morning he talked with his father and revealed his university struggles.
He did not give his father cause for concern and was described by the coroner as seeming “relieved”. He went to bed later that day and at 8pm he was found unresponsive. Paramedics were called but could not save him.
Toxicology examinations found that while Aaron had no alcohol in his blood, oxycodone was at a level which could be fatal. There were small traces of cannabis and therapeutic levels of medication he took for epilepsy.
The inquest heard Tony was taking oxycodone as part of his cancer treatment and noticed some of his medication was missing, as was some belonging to his wife Lorna.
Aaron went to Essex University in 2018 but had twice come home, including at one point to help care for his dad after his cancer diagnosis. The death of Aaron’s grandmother, to whom he was close, also had a sizeable effect on him.
The coroner revealed medical records showing Aaron attended hospital in March 2018 after blacking out, and again in June, August and November that year. He had been referred to the neurological unit at Southampton and told doctors he was taking Xanax before his first seizure.
When Mr Wells presented again to the unit in November, consultants decided they would put him on epilepsy medication, but he did not attend the clinic again or go for an MRI.
Consultant neurologist Ashwin Pinto noted there was a “history of epilepsy apparent” in Aaron’s family. The coroner said epilepsy can develop after someone has taken Xanax, and noted Aaron had reported seizures whenever he tried to wean himself off it.
The inquest heard Aaron had wanted to go to university to “do better for himself”. He chose Essex despite his parents wanting him to remain closer to home.
He had a girlfriend and a close circle of mates but “struggled being in that environment” and had “financial difficulties” with his student loan.
“There he is away from home for the first time, he’s an only child, and very close to his family and he goes to uni and felt out of his comfort zone,” the coroner said.
The coroner said when Mr Wells went back to Essex in 2019 his mental health issues resurfaced and he was admitted to hospital in November and December for head injuries from falls which happened due to his seizures.
Mr Wells played football for Fawley Falcons and was a Manchester United fan. Tony called his son “my hero”, while Lorna said he “would light up any room he walked into with his cheeky smile”.
Lorna added: “I wouldn’t want anyone to go through anything like this with their children – I would not want it for anybody, it’s completely destroyed us. We are living in a nightmare.”