Whether Welfare Recipients Should be Tested to Receive Benefits?

Whether Welfare Recipients Should be Tested to Receive Benefits?

The world is currently full of legislation and public policy; thus the question of whether or not welfare recipients should be drug tested or not is exceedingly discordant and charged ardently. The two sides fight so hard for what they want, and the consequences are usually a big fight for the legal authority. Over time, laws that govern drug testing for welfare recipients are getting more famous. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, not less than 17 states in the United States were in progress of making laws governing drug testing as on May 2016. These laws have been said to be attempting to put down the less privileged class by being attacked on various grounds, ranging from the constitutional to the practical. This article, therefore, intends to show on main points from both perspectives rather than just giving a mere opinion on the said topic.

First, drug testing for welfare receivers could lead to the use of taxpayers money judiciously. For the few people that their taxes are used to fund the welfare system, they will feel very privileged to see their tax dollars being used to help other people on welfare to buy drugs. Therefore, advocates of mandatory drug testing argue that regular drug tests would ensure that the people on welfare would be using welfare money for reasonable things like food, housing, and other necessities instead of substances of abuse.

Second, it helps in identifying specific people who need help in substance abuse treatment. It is important to note that substance abuse is a problem that affects the whole society, not just the specific people who are abusing substances. Mandatory drug testing, therefore, helps in identifying these individuals who can benefit from substance abuse treatment so they can get help and at long last, they will save money that they could have used in substance abuse (Yocaubian, Peters, Urbach & Johnson, 2002).

Thirdly, there exist alternative methodologies. Even though drug testing of all applicants in wholesale may not save on costs, it is straightforward to amend the policies so that, for instance, the specific members who are highly suspected of drug abuse will be tested. Also, drug testing for welfare recipients sets a good precedent in the job market. There has always been an argument by the legislature members of a state that employers mostly need drug testing, thus it is also very reasonable to require drug testing for welfare recipients. Moreover, this method discourages the use of welfare for a long time. This is because the accumulation of more qualifications for protecting profits gives individuals hopes to find work and thus avoiding other paperwork needed to maintain welfare.

A more significant part of the public thinks about welfare recipients negatively. It views them as they lack motivation, not hardworking, chronic drug users who are just taking advantage of the taxpayer’s dollars. The expressions of welfare beneficiaries are usually mostly not there in published sociological research.  The interviews that had been done show that welfare dependency and drug use are symptoms of woman’s societal position, as a result of illiteracy, very few skills on any job, lack of child care, and restricted geographical mobility. Social welfare programs serve as a social control mechanism, which does not help the recipient, nor options for help.

There has been the bringing up of the (TANF) Implementation of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, the TANF grants receivers with benefits that are time-limited and work qualifications. With that said, it is estimated that over 140,000 welfare recipients meet the DSM-IV criteria for drug dependence. Samples of chronic drug using and non-drug using female TANF recipients were compared to current employment, psychological health, self-perceived employment skills, barriers to seeking employment. It is found that non-drug users are well more likely to be employed and are majorly higher self-perceived work skills than drug users. Took 256 participants to test and study the drug use of welfare recipients and found the majority are females, African American, and completed less than 11 years of schooling (Perez, 2017).

There exist the three major justifications typically offered in support of drug testing. These justifications are paternalist, contractualist, and harm-based justifications and usually are very persuasive. While explaining the three grounds, the authors talk about how they feel that they fail to make the case that benefits of drug testing outweigh its cost in terms of the recipient’s privacy. The authors believe that even if these normative justifications are accepted for drug testing, that current background conditions in the US implement this policy is unfair in practice. It can strengthen existing injustices and, in some cases, could engender moral obligations that can’t be fulfilled.

Seemingly, the drug policy has changed over the past decade. It has become more closely aligned with the welfare policy than it ever has been before. There is also a mentality on what a person must be, to be eligible for welfare, such as being low income. Most people believe that the welfare checks that these individuals are receiving are going towards their drug use problem. Whincup & Monaghan, 2016 state that “In recent years, neoliberal welfare regimes across the globe, and most controversially in the US have targeted drug users in their programs of welfare reform This article starts by telling us about “The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act of 1996.” This was also known as PRWORA. This was at the time, a start to the change in the nation’s welfare system. The PRWORA is mainly focused on the use of illegal drugs, but it is said that studies have failed to link together the use of illegal drugs and people who are on welfare. In 1996’s studies they had collected 1,572 “arrestees” urine samples that were later looked at by “Houston’s Arrestee Drug Abuse Monitoring” which is also known as ADAM. The results of this test showed that the majority of people who were arrested for drug use were people who lived well above the poverty level. However, they stated that the individuals that were on welfare and were arrested for drug use were “women, older, less educated, and to test positive for opiates and benzodiazepines” than the other groups that they had tested..”

There exist some disadvantages of drug testing for welfare recipients. One, there are high chances of taxpayer money being used poorly. It is well known that drug tests are expensive, and according to a data published by ThinkProgress, drug testing cost more than $850,000 in 2015 and led to 321 positive results among more than 96,000 welfare applicants where only 3000 managed to be tested. The strong opposers of mandatory drug testing argue that the money saved due to drug testing is far much more than the cost of proving itself.

The idea of drug testing welfare recipients is allegedly a violation of the constitution. Following the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), the drug testing law in Florida was struck down by the U.s Circuit Court of Appeals because it infringed the constitutional right of people, this right is the right not to be subject to unreasonable searches. Individuals on welfare tend to be stigmatized. In the 1997Supreme Court case Chandler v.  Miller, the vote of the court to strike down a Georgia law requiring candidates for state offices to pass a drug test was 8-1. There are high chances that the court could vote the same way for policies that include drug-testing welfare recipients. Those against drug testing laws argue that by making it mandatory or a requiring for drug testing for welfare recipients increases the belief that welfare beneficiaries are addicts and drug users, while apparently according to the data published by states that conduct drug testing, only 0.3 percent in 2015 of those individuals who had applied were using drugs. Moreover, drug-testing denies children welfare benefits (Montoya, Atkinson, & Struse, 2001).

Even though farmers, business people, and others get substantial direct subsidies from the government, a more significant number of Americans get indirect subsidies in the form of tax breaks, such as the home mortgage deduction, tax-free employer-provided health insurance or the child tax credit. Instead of the government paying people directly, they unfortunately indirectly deduct their salaries in the name of taxes. This relates to drug testing welfare recipients in that if the purpose for this course is that drugs are dangerous and the government should avoid those using them, then the government should choose to test all receivers of government money, including employees and contractors of the government. So if people want help with the taxpayers’ money, they have to prove that they are also doing their best for themselves. Proof has to be there that spending money on such people by drug testing them will not be futile (Luck, Elifson, & Sterk, 2004).

In conclusion, whether to drug-test welfare recipients can be both a bad and a good idea. Getting tested may allow one to secure a job as most people have to get drug-tested before getting a job. Moreover, this is an excellent use of taxpayers money even though there is a possibility of it being misused. In looking at it though, there are more advantages to this issue than the disadvantages.




Luck, P. A., Elifson, K. W., & Sterk, C. E. (2004). Female drug users and the welfare system: a qualitative exploration. Drugs: Education, Prevention & Policy, 11(2), 113–128. https://doi-org.dbprox.vinu.edu/10.1080/0968763031000152504

Montoya, I. D., Atkinson, J. S., & Struse, H. M. (2001). A Comparison of Psychosocial Barriers among Welfare Recipients: Implications for Drug Treatment. Substance Use & Misuse, 36(6–7), 771–787. https://doi-org.dbprox.vinu.edu/10.1081/JA-100104090

Pérez-Muñoz, C. (2017). What is Wrong with Testing Welfare Recipients for Drug Use? Political Studies, 65(4), 912–929. https://doi-org.dbprox.vinu.edu/10.1177/0032321717692166

Wincup, E., & Monaghan, M. (2016). Scrounger narratives and dependent drug users: welfare, workfare and warfare. Journal of Poverty & Social Justice, 24(3), 261–275. https://doi-org.dbprox.vinu.edu/10.1332/175982716X14721954315084

Yacoubian Jr., G. S., Peters Jr., R. J., Urbach, B. J., & Johnson, R. J. (2002). Comparing Drug Use between Welfare-Receiving Arrestees and Non-Welfare-Receiving Arrestees. Journal of Drug Education, 32(2), 139–147. https://doi-org.dbprox.vinu.edu/10.2190/J9P8-2MP4-6CU7-P004