Drug Testing and Welfare Recipients

Freshman (College 1st year) ・English ・APA ・5 Sources

Drug testing for government aid has been a subject of debate in the United States for decades. At least fifteen states have passed laws requiring welfare recipients to submit to drug tests. Some regulations mandate drug testing for all recipients, while others use criteria such as vocabulary to decide whether or not the recipient should be screened. More than 17 states proposed legislation in 2016 to address the problem of drug testing for welfare and substance abuse. In 2017, the state of Arkansas made drug testing permanent ("Drug Testing for Welfare Recipients and Public Assistance", 2017). These steps made by some states do not go down well with people who have benefited from welfare provision like me. Being the child of a drug user is a hard life. Taking benefits away from a household due to drug use would ultimately take away one of the only stable aspects of that child's life. I remember being a child and my parents got their monthly book of stamps. I would always get thrilled because that meant I was going to be able to get a treat, which was a rare occurrence for my siblings and me. Drug testing of welfare recipients could disrupt the lives of thousands of already disadvantaged children, therefore enforcing the screening would be socially irresponsible.

The supporters of drug testing for welfare recipients argue that the tax payers money ought not to be spent on narcotics. Also, the proposers of drug testing present that if the persons who apply for state support have the money to buy drugs, they may as well have enough money to take care of themselves. The contention that drug testing for public assistance would ensure that the tax payer's money only goes to help the deserving needy people and not to pay for illegal drugs. According to Vitter, (2011), when money is spent on drug users needs, children or families that need same assistance lose. Therefore, it remains the responsibility of governments to safeguard the taxpayer's money and to make sure it serves real needs.

It is true that the taxpayer's money should go to the right courses like helping needy people. But drug users are needy people too, and they have dependants with them including children. Hence, if it is a matter of overall concern and assistance to needy children and families, the states would reconsider proposals to test welfare recipients for drugs. It also turns out that the taxpayer's money that should not be wasted actually gets wasted through the drug testing operations. For instance, only one person out of 800 individuals who sought welfare support tested positive for the drug tests and in Florida, less than three percent of the total number of individuals who applied for help tested positive (Cunha, 2014).

Another point of the argument presented by the advocates for screening recipients is that such moves would help drug users reform so that they get the state support. It is true that some addicts do depend on public assistance to support their habit, many of those people are stuck in an addiction they can't kick but do need the financial welfare for logical reasons other than drugs. For the people seeking aid, that mandatory drug testing can be used to the simple fact that their assistance is dependent on their sobriety, that will motivate them to do what they have to do to get clean.

But Ganeva, (2015), points out that drug addiction and drug use are two different things, and the urine tests often miss alcohol which has a higher potential of getting a user into addiction when compared to marijuana. Also, since addiction stems from trauma and penalizing the addicts only re-traumatizes the users. Denying the drug addicts aid does not necessarily help them deal with the addiction, and that is why addiction experts and psychological groups oppose punitive measures as the means for dealing with addiction (Ganeva, 2015). Furthermore, opponents of drug testing for aid such as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) view the law as a means of wrongfully punishing families and denying children benefits that they need. ACLU also contends that the moves to test recipients is against the Fourth Amendment because it encourages unreasonable search and seizure.

The governor of Florida Rick Scott who supports the law requiring adults in that state to pass drug tests for them to receive cash assistance believes that the laws would shield the taxpayer's money from funding the addiction of individuals (Lattimore, 2017). Scott's statements are similar to those of Vitter, (2011), who feels that billions of dollars meant for welfare end up in the wrong places and so drug testing so recipients would ensure the funds are directed towards disadvantaged children and provide the adults with the encouragement to stop using drugs.

The opinion driving Scott's thinking is worthy: there are impoverished people, and the administration is trying to assist them, but many are exploiting this act of charity by using the funds on drugs instead of their children. There are dilemmas with the basic reasoning of requiring drug tests for welfare receivers.

While ensuring that disadvantaged children get the help they need, branding a section of the society as drug users could not the appropriate way to go about it. The process which has failed to save the taxpayers' money, has succeeded in humiliating Americans who are already struggling to make ends meet. The test hurts both those who are tested and the taxpayers. The adults who seek welfare support have their civil liberties breached while the taxpayer's money goes to activities that are unproven and ineffective (Ganeva, 2015). What's more, branding persons who seek aid as drug users are slanderous and demeaning? According to estimates by Think Progress, seven states that have carried out drug testing programs have in spent more than one million dollars collectively to catch very few users. And the idea of being accountable to the taxpayer becomes complicated because for testing.

I believe that the ordinary working; taxpaying voter would object to the idea that drug screening is a violation of any rights. Especially since most of these people had to undergo a drug test. The disputants of drug testing say it’s the children and families.

I know that most welfare receivers respect the provisions of their agreement with the agency. The drug screening will just be used to disqualify any persons taking advantage of the aid for improper use and to assure that the welfare will go to the individual who is truly in need of it. While many people are willing to take the drug tests, there are also some who are very hesitant toward this new qualification and they have genuine reasons for being hesitant. Take for example the war veteran in Florida who went to court disputing the law and who had fought in Iraq. The veteran feels that his constitutional right is being compromised after serving his country in such a great way.

To determine whether or not drug testing is a fair and logical condition, all the pros and cons need to be assessed. As for the benefits of the required drug screenings, there are quite a few to take into thought. The first advantage to consider is that it is not fair to the taxpayers to have to pay for others drug habits. The taxes of employed citizens go to the government. The money then goes to programs such as schools, parks, and infrastructure. More importantly, to help those people seeking welfare. It’s not fair to those taxpayers if in fact those people on or seeking aid are stuck in addiction and use the assistance money to support their habit. Taxpayers are working hard to earn their money, so why should they have to work to pay off the habits of people who are too apathetic to go out and work for wages themselves? Moreover, drug testing could also be used as an encouragement not to use drugs.

There are many factors that go into this debate. I can see how a responsible taxpayer would feel take advantage of by supplying drug addict with financial assistance. However, speaking from personal experience, the children involved in a drug filled dysfunctional household need all the assistance and support that cities can provide. Also, looking at this issue from a factual perspective, the recipients drug testing programs only contribute to wasting taxpayers' money because very few people are netted in the process and it degrades Americans who are seeking help. Drug testing of welfare recipients could disrupt the lives of thousands of already disadvantaged children, therefore enforcing the screening would be socially irresponsible.


Cunha, D. (2014, August 15). Why Drug Testing Welfare Recipients Is a Waste of Taxpayer Money. Time.com. Retrieved 15 June 2017, from http://time.com/3117361/welfare-recipients-drug-testing/

Drug Testing for Welfare Recipients and Public Assistance. (2017, March, 24). Ncsl.org. Retrieved 15 June 2017, from http://www.ncsl.org/research/human-services/drug-testing-and-public-assistance.aspx

Ganeva, T. (2015, October 12). 5 Reasons Drug Testing Welfare Recipients Is Profoundly Stupid. Alternet. Retrieved 15 June 2017, from http://www.alternet.org/5-reasons-drug-testing-welfare-recipients-profoundly-stupid

Lattimore, K. (2017, January 04). For Discussion: Florida Governor on Welfare Drug Tests its Not Right To Be Paying For Somebody’s Drug Addiction’. Retrieved from https://bossip.com/393921/for-discussion-florida-governor92380/

Vitter, D. (2011, December 15). Government Programs Should Not Encourage Lifelong Dependency. Retrieved June 09, 2017, from https://www.usnews.com/debate-club/should-welfare-recipients-be-tested-for-drugs/government-programs-should-not-encourage-lifelong-dependency

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