A stark warning about the dangers of buying ‘legal highs’ over the internet from abroad has been made the grieving parents of a university graduate who tried to self-medicate his depression.

Carol and Quinten Crossland say they will never come to terms with the shock of losing their “smart, much-loved” son Richard, who was found dead in January last year after police had to break into his flat at Beamsley House, Shipley.

They spoke out after a Coroner yesterday recorded an open verdict into the 23-year-old laboratory assistant’s death.

The inquest in Bradford heard that although Richard had died from poisoning caused by mercury he had taken from his workplace, he also had levels of a drug called Phenazepam in his system which he had legally obtained from a company in Hong Kong.

His parents, who live in Harden, blame the drug, which is illegal in the UK, for destroying the son they knew.

Mr Crossland said he and his wife had known nothing about it until it was too late and had later found records of regular Internet purchases on his credit card statements.

They believe the substance, supposed to relieve anxiety, made him paranoid and his problems worse.

Mrs Crossland said: “Tragically, he never confided in us about how he was attempting to self-medicate using drugs bought legally from foreign countries over the Internet.

“Maybe he couldn’t admit to himself that he had a problem or thought he had found a way to cope and was in control. We will never know for sure but we do know that in the end these drugs destroyed the Richard that we knew and loved and have left us devastated.”

Now the couple are urging anyone tempted to self-medicate via the internet or who is suffering from depression or low self-esteem to talk about it to friends or family and to ask for help instead.

“People need to know about the dangers of buying self-medicating drugs on the internet and parents need to be aware,” Mr Crossland said.

Pathologist Dr Karen Ramsen told the inquest although the Phenazepam had not been “the main problem”, it was known to be a “very, very powerful” legal high with side-effects that could change people’s perceptions.

During the inquest Mr Crossland’s boss William McKenzie said no-one had been aware at the time that any mercury had gone missing from Purification Products in Shipley.

He said Mr Crossland had been acting “a bit strange” and agitated and was sent home to sort himself out on January 13 – the day before he died.

However, it was Mr Crossland's father the day after who called police to the flat because Richard had not turned up to meet the rest of his family for a party.