DEATHS from cocaine have increased, a police officer has warned.

DS Mark Pinder of Sussex Police said the number of cocaine-related fatalities has risen in Brighton over the past two years.

He was speaking at an inquest into the death of 39-year-old army veteran James Vaughan, who was found dead at his home in July after taking the class A drug.

DS Pinder told Brighton Coroner’s Court on Monday: “In the last two years the cocaine market in Brighton has changed.

“The purity levels are significantly higher and more deadly.

“Before two years ago, we rarely had cocaine-related deaths, but since October 2018 there have been at least four deaths where the main or only drug that has caused the death is cocaine.

“Unfortunately in this case we were unable to find the source of the drug.”

James, a transport manager who had only been living in Chatsworth Square in Hove for a few days, was found dead at home on July 22.

Two friends had attended his flat after not being able to get hold of him, and called emergency services after they found him unresponsive.

Amber Crampton, a toxicologist at the Royal Sussex County Hospital, said: “Blood tests revealed a very high level of cocaine hydrochloride in James’s blood, at 2.5 milligrams per litre.

“We also found levamisole, which is used as a cutting agent with cocaine.

“Even to someone tolerant to the drug, this level could be fatal.”

The court heard James served in the army between 2001 and 2003, and had difficulties adjusting to life back at home.

Assistant coroner Catharine Palmer read n a statement from James’ GP, Dr Ronak Patel, of Stanford Medical Centre, who said: “James had suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, anxiety and depression and was seeing a psychiatrist in 2018 and again in April this year.

“He was found to have maladaptive personality traits and was given advice about how to refer himself to a veterans’ charity and neuropsychological services.”

Ms Palmer recorded a conclusion of misadventure.

She said: “Because James previously had suicidal thoughts, I had to consider this possibility, but I do not believe for a second that he intended to end his own life.

“James had his problems, both with his health and sometimes in his private life, but his family was very important to him.

“He had said his father was incredibly supportive, and he was very proud of his brother Gary for his boxing achievements.”

DS Pinder described James as having a positive outlook and being committed to the gym.

He said: “I don’t get the impression he was using cocaine all the time.

“People turn to substances for a number of reasons, and in eight out of ten cases the family are always the last to know.

“It’s very sad, but as I would expect James loved them more than anyone else, he would hide that drug use.”

After the inquest, James’ ex-partner Lyndsey Keenan said: ““He was very well loved. It’s just tragic. He dealt with a lot in his life, and he coped so well.”