THE mothers of two teenage heroin addicts have pleaded for their sons to be locked up in time for Christmas.

Both offenders, aged 17 and 18, spend up to £200 a week to pay for their drug habit, meeting the cost through shoplifting, burglary and street muggings.

Their mothers, who did not wish to be named, have spoken out as they say drug-taking is now rife in their locality - the Hendon and East End areas of Sunderland - with children as young as 11 taking everything from tranquillisers to crack cocaine.

One said the boys became familiar with illicit substances at the age of ten, and claimed that obtaining drugs is as easy as "buying a tube of Smarties", with up to 50 dealers operating in the area.

She believes her son would even steal from her to obtain money for drugs, and said she would be happy if her son was jailed over the Christmas period.

She said: "I feel ashamed saying it. You see him lying there. He's grey, full of spots, his face is drawn in, he's scruffy and looks like an old man. That's not him."

She said no one appears to have the nerve to tackle the drug dealers at the heart of the problem, with some of the mothers ending on tablets themselves through worry over the plight of their sons.

Sergeant Glenn Patterson, of Northumbria Police's Hendon Task Force, said it was "tragic" to hear such stories, but urged people to help the force tackle the drug menace by coming forward with information to help them to "root out" the dealers.

"All our evidence for drug raids comes from members of the public," said Sgt Patterson.