US President Barack Obama's director of drugs policy says drug use in the community is a public health problem and not an issue of law and order.
Gil Kerlikowske, the US director of the office of national drug control policy, said it was time to develop a more holistic approach to fix the problems of drug use.
'I have witnessed this growing recognition among policy makers and the public that drugs are fundamentally an issue of public health,' Mr Kerlikowske said in a speech in Canberra on Wednesday.
He said law enforcement would continue to play a vital role but reducing drug use also involved public health and public safety.
'History has proven that law enforcement alone is not going to end drug abuse,' he said.
The path that balanced public health programs, law enforcement and international partnerships is referred to as the Third Way, he said.
'The Third way is rooted in the knowledge really that drug addiction is a disease of the brain,' Mr Kerlikowske said.
'It could be diagnosed, it could be treated, people can recover from it.
'Importantly we have decades of scientific research that proves beyond a doubt that this is a disease, that it is not a moral failing.'
Mr Kerlikowske said the Obama administration has worked very hard in moving away from the war on drugs' rhetoric.
'That war on drugs statement is just incredibly misleading and it is so demeaning,' he said.
'It is just such a simplistic bumper sticker answer to what is an unbelievable complex problem.'
But he said those advocating for the legalisation of drugs as the answer had no more legitimacy in the long run than just using the criminal justice system.
The Department of Justice released a study in October 2011 based on 2007 data that the cost of drug use cost the US around $193 billion a year.
Mr Kerlikowske said more Americans died today from drug induced deaths than any other injury, including traffic crashes and gunshot wounds, which should be a 'significant wake up call' in the United States'.