PIONEERING centres for drug addicts are to be set up in the North-East.

The new pilot fast track service, the first of its kind in the UK, aims to treat 500 drug abusers on Teesside.

A team, containing a GP, a nurse practitioner and support staff will be in operation from next April.

They will work from bases in Middlesbrough and South Bank, their aim to get addicts more quickly into treatment and rehabilitation to reduce the harmful effects of their habits on them, their families and the crime hit community.

The Middlesbrough and Eston Primary Care group has been given the go-ahead for the project. Aware of public sensitivities about drug-taking, group board member Dr Ian Guy said the centres will not be in residential areas.

"We understand people's concerns about having a resource for drug mis-users close to where they live. I must emphasise that we will be making sure that the premises we use are not close to people's homes, as many existing GP practices are, but located well away from domestic properties."

With the average cost of feeding a drugs craving running at £100 a day misusers turn to crime.

Dr Guy said: "We know that one of the general public's main concerns is the problem of drug misuse and its impact on the community. We believe the scheme will help to address the drugs problem locally by getting more people into the system and treated more quickly, so they can make a quicker return to normal life, so reducing the level of crime."