Drugs, I am told, are the main cause of crime in Baltimore. Not only are they responsible for much of the theft and burglary, but they are connected to most of the killings as well.

Tens of thousands of people in the city are addicted to narcotics such as heroin and crack cocaine. They buy their fixes from dealers in open-air drug markets such as the busy one I walked past yesterday at the corner of Park Heights Avenue and Cold Spring Lane in West Baltimore.

As well as the many drug dealers on that corner, there is also a building that is home to the "I Can't We Can" rehabilitation program. Inside the building is a large room where men sit on one side, women the other, and share their struggles with addiction.

I spoke to people like Karen Royster, a 46-year-old woman who became homeless and lost custody of her six children because of her addiction to crack cocaine, and Terry Bullock, a 36-year-old man who has admitted he would steal and attack people to fund his habit.

All of them are now clean, they say, and have been for varying periods of between five years to just a month.

They did it not through a government-funded initiative, but through a group run on a shoestring budget from inside a run-down building behind a supermarket.

Not because they wanted to, but because the program is, according to everyone I spoke to there, the only one in the city that offers treatment on demand. Users can turn up at any time during the day or night and be seen instantly.

Other programs have waiting lists. That causes problems, because if drug addicts turn up asking for treatment and are told to return later, there's a good chance they will keep using drugs.

The I Can't We Can program attempts to wean people off drugs by introducing spirituality. It does not offer its subscribers a drug substitute, such as methadone. The organizers say that giving users another drug does not solve the problem.

They would no doubt disagree with a government-backed pilot program currently being run in the UK. It involves giving heroin addicts two injections a day of heroin - not the usual methadone substitute. It is highly controversial but, after three years, those running it claim that they have seen a huge drop in crime by those taking part.

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