Drug Tests on Welfare Recipients

Drug Tests on Welfare Recipients

Drug Tests on Welfare Recipients Show Shocking Results

A common ideology among Americans is the notion that if we have to be drug tested to earn our income and pay into government assistance programs, then welfare recipients should be drug tested to reap those benefits. It is also a common misconception among many working Americans that people who collect government assistance and live in low-income households also have drug problems. Recently in the last 6 months, the state of Tennessee has begun drug tests on welfare recipients. What recent research is finding, however; is that these two qualities do not necessarily go hand in hand. Specifically they have found that less than half of a percent failed a drug test when applying for assistance.

Of the 16,000 applicants that applied for assistance in Tennessee between July 2014 and December 2014 only 37 applicants tested positively for illegal substances. This isn’t only in the state of Tennessee either. Utah and Florida have both reported numbers far below the average in their total respective populations. Utah reports that of the 6 percent of drugs users in their state’s population, only 0.2 percent of them were users on public assistance. Florida also reports similar numbers with only 2 of the 8 percent of drug users in the state collecting some form of government assistance. With the numbers reported being far below what was anticipated, one should look more closely at the issues that arise with testing and should this testing continue.

There are a couple of issues with the government demanding drug tests on welfare recipients. First is obviously the cost. Drug testing all of these participants and new applicants is costly to the government and they are not getting the results they originally anticipated. Why continue to waste money on this research when it already has failed? The second issue is the infringement on our basic civil liberties. Many feel that testing recipients simply because they are poor is ineffective, harmful, and unnecessary; further stigmatizing the population. What is far more prevalent among recipients of government assistance is physical and mental illness while age (not income) is a bigger factor in drug abuse. When it comes to income, most people who rely on public assistance are often more frugal than most Americans and spend less money on frivolity like eating out and entertainment.


Despite all of the research to the contrary, many other states have recently begun drug tests on welfare recipients with Texas, Wisconsin, Maine, Montana, and Colorado joining in. This basic misunderstanding of the lifestyles of the poor is perpetuating the dangerous stereotype that all low income households are coupled with substance abuse issues. Until more states continue to report that their research is finding the same results that Florida, Utah, and Tennessee have reported, then this stereotype will continue to spread throughout the nation.

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