A CORONER said a man died with the highest amount of drugs in his system he had ever seen.

An inquest at Barrow Town Hall heard Gary Aspinall, 43, of Beech Close Ulverston, had "extraordinary" levels of heroin in his body when he died at home on January 21.

Assistant coroner Paul O'Donnell recorded Mr Aspinall died a drug-related death and said the levels of heroin in the man's body were "six times" the level he usually saw in inquests.

The inquest at Barrow Town Hall heard Mr Aspinall, a former heroin addict born in Barrow, had managed to stay off the substance in the18 months before he died.

There have been three inquests relating to drug deaths held in Barrow this week.

According to the latest figures, 12 people have died from drug overdoses since December last year.

The inquest heard Mr Aspinall had been regularly taking methadone and bought diazepam, often prescribed for anxiety, off the internet, the inquest was told.

But at the time of his death, Mr Aspinall had become "stressed" following his father's death the year before, on top of his mother suffering from cancer.

His body was discovered at home by his sister Jane Aspinall, who had struggled to make contact with him on the day of his death.

She told the inquest: "I found him lying down on the sofa and tried to help him by pulling him away."

Found in his home was an empty bottle of methadone marked for use for the next day, the inquest was told, as well as 100 "blue tablets".

Miss Aspinall said her brother must have taken two doses of methadone in one day after he obtained the drug, usually taken at the chemist, but was allowed to take the substance at home because it was the weekend.

She said whenever she found her brother with the valium tablets she flushed them down the toilet.

Miss Aspinall said her brother had started taking cannabis around the age of 20 and then moved onto harder drugs following a malicious rape allegation against him made by a former girlfriend that was later withdrawn.

"That was really when it started," she said.

Officer who attended his house found him on the floor with a syringe next to him.

She and her sister Wendy had last seen their brother alive when they visited their mother at Furness General Hospital the day before he died.

Jane Aspinall said her brother seemed funny on that day under the influence of drugs and refused to give him a lift back to Ulverston to show her displeasure.

She said: "Something else was up with him on that day. I was annoyed with so I didn't give him a lift back. He knew he was in the doghouse."

Mr Aspinall's mother died six days after her son. The family chose not tell her he had died.

The inquest heard his last contact with his mother came on the day he died, when he texted her in hospital saying: "Are you OK Mum?"

The coroner said Mr Aspinall's tolerance to heroin was reduced after so long away from the drug.

He also said he did not anticipate the drug would be so pure and concluded Mr Aspinall did not meant to kill himself.

Mr O'Donnell said: "The level of heroin in his body was extraordinarily high but his tolerance to the drug had dropped.

"Gary took something stronger than he anticipated.

"He did not intend to take his own life."

Speaking after the inquest, Wendy and Jane Aspinall expressed concern at the ease with which their brother was able to obtain tablets from the internet and regretted he had turned back to drugs.

Wendy Aspinall said: "Gary was the nicest person in the world and he did so well to get off drugs. He did because he cared about the people around him."

Jane Aspinall said: "It was too easy for him to buy the tablets of the internet. The police need to keep on top of this."

Detective Superintendent Dean Holden, Cumbria Police's head of crime, said online drug dealing was a problem that was difficult for officers to detect.

He said: "Often you unfortunately do not discover people have bought drugs in this way until they are admitted to hospital or until they unfortunately die.

"Usually we rely on informants to give us intelligence about drug gangs. There are lots of links in the chain between the supplier and the user and usually there is a weak link.

"But when there is no middle man it is difficult to police.

"Because of this there is no intelligence and we do not know the scale of the problem."

The detective said Cumbria Police were trying their best to tackle the issue alongside the North West Regional Crime Unit.