An editorial in the BMJ, the UK's most widely-read medical journal, argues that laws against drug use have harmed people across the world, while stressing that drug addiction should be viewed as a health problem and police involvement must end.
The call for reform reflects a shift in medical opinion. In June, Britain's two leading health bodies, the Royal Society for Public Health and the Faculty of Public Health, called for the personal use of drugs to be decriminalized.
The group said criminalizing users deters them from seeking medical help and leads to long-term harm, such as exposure to hard drugs in prison, the breakup of families, and loss of employment.
Drug deaths in Britain are presently at an all-time high.
The BMJ says that the number of heroin fatalities has doubled in the past three years because of government policies. Official figures show that 579 people died from using heroin in 2012, compared with 1,201 in 2015.
The journal's editor in chief, Fiona Godlee, says: "There is an imperative to investigate more effective alternatives to criminalisation of drug use and supply."