Publishing its manifesto ahead of next month’s Holyrood elections, the Scottish Police Federation (SPF) said decades of arresting and prosecuting addicts had failed.
It said it was not advocating legislation or decriminilisation of illegal drugs, but calling for more help to be given to break the cycle of addiction and offending.
The SPF also said the locking up drunk people in police cells was “no longer acceptable”. It called for “safe, secure facilities” to be created that would prevent the need to “shuttle (drunk) people between police cells and hospitals”.
The manifesto states: “Scotland has had a long, turbulent relationship with alcohol and drugs.
“But decades of arresting and prosecuting those with dependency problems has failed to tackle the root cause.
“There will always be those who end up in the criminal justice system as a consequence of their actions. Where prosecutions are necessary, the punishment should be swift and decisive.
“The SPF is not advocating the legalisation or decriminalising of drugs, but efforts should be better directed in trying to help those with problems overcome addictions.”
The SPF said courts should be free to impose disposals requiring participation in health and education programmes, with “traditional criminal sanctions preserved for those preying on the vulnerable and peddling misery”.
Last year Police Scotland said officers would hand out more on-the-spot warnings for petty offences - including cannabis possession - in a bid to speed up Scotland’s justice system.
Treating low-level crime with Recorded Police Warnings means officers no longer have to submit a report to the procurator fiscal for such offences.
Elsewhere in its manifesto, the SPF called for a “social responsibility levy” to be introduced by the Scottish Parliament which would see music fans and football supporters pay towards the cost of policing their events.
The SPF said the charge would apply to “any commercial activity or industry whose activities have a disproportionate impact on local communities”.