Should welfare recipients receive drug testing?

Last Updated: 20 Apr 2022
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Since welfare programs started in the 60s, a reoccurring pattern has been seen in more cases than one. Fraudulent activity and taking advantage of the system has been happening for way too long in our society. A simple drug test should be administered to welfare recipients if they expect to receive the benefits that are offered to them. If other citizens such as the ones in the working class are held accountable to be administered a drug screening, those who would like to receive government assistance should be held to the same standard.

The abolition of the entitlement culture found in American society will ultimately benefit the Countries economy and character. While the concept of this practice is not to stereotype against the lower class, it should be seen as a mandatory evaluation to those who would like to continue benefitting from the government’s aid. The goal of drug testing welfare recipients is not to revoke their privileges, it is simply to reform the system of welfare and make sure that those who truly need assistance are having their needs met.

The controversy of how many welfare recipients tested for substance abuse has been proven to be skewed.

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The American Civil Liberties Union (ALCU) finds that only 2.6 percent of welfare recipients in Florida study tested negative for substance abuse. The state of Florida drug tested 4,086 applicants. Only 108 individuals tested positive, however, it is obvious that many recipients delay application due to the fact that they know they will have their benefits stripped because of the positive results. (Bragdon) As a result of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) act, recipients would be required to pay out of pocket to be administered a urinalysis, and would be reimbursed if passed, further backing up the idea of skewed evidence as recipients would be much more likely to not spend their own money on a test that they would be sure to fail.

With almost $58,000 spent reimbursing drug test fees and total savings from drug-related denials at $1.8 million, the drug test requirement is saving Florida taxpayers $30.64 for every $1 spent. The U.S Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services appointed a national survey in 2009, concluding that 8.7 percent of the population over the age of 12 proves to use illicit drugs. With such a prominent amount of the population being related to the abuse of various substances, it can be very well concluded that the reason for such a miniscule amount of recipients failing the administered tests is due to the fact that many of the users did not in fact, take the test at all.

The results of the ACLU study fail to investigate how many of the tested welfare recipients that passed the drug testing would have tested positive on other controlled substances such as prescription pills that many defend to be a “false positive”. According to a study conducted by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 48.5% of Americans take at least one form of prescription drug, and a similar study, the National Survey on Drug Use and Health concluded that at least an estimated 2.4 million Americans abuse prescription pills daily. Also, of public assistance recipients treated for substance abuse in 2008, the most common primary substance of abuse was alcohol (37 percent of those treated). Drug testing welfare recipients is classified as “Unconstitutional”

The Supreme Court’s “Special Needs Doctrine” can be used to classify the act of requiring welfare recipients to pass a scheduled or random drug testing as constitutional (NCSL) The doctrine of unconstitutional conditions requires a different analysis under which conditioning welfare on consent to testing may very well be a constitutional condition, the eleventh circuit panel has done much research to prove this theory. (Wurman) The “Germaneness” of a bill of legislature is simply the pertinence of the issue. This can be directly correlated to the issue of whether or not a recipient is compliant when asked to be administered a drug test.(NCSL)

In 1981, Lyng v. International Union, took place in court due to the Food Stamp Act that stated, “No household shall become eligible to participate in the food stamp program during the time that any member of the household is on strike or shall increase the allotment of food stamps that it was receiving already because the income of the striking member has decreased.” Despite the going on strike being a right in the first amendment, the Court held that the law did not have a "substantial impact on any fundamental interest" and that citizens participating in striking were directly affecting their ability to make an income, much like drug abuse does.

Therefore, leaving loop holes in the defense that drug testing welfare recipients would be infringing upon their fourth amendment. When this issue was appointed to a panel of judges, they summarized a quote from case of Dolan v. City of Tigard, basically stating that when the benefit does have a relationship to the right, the government may, perhaps, withhold the benefit. Meaning that assistance is not a humane right, rather a benefit that is offered by the government, allowing them to deny access to the benefit, if need be. If recipients cannot pass the administered drug test, their rights are not being infringed upon, due to the fact that welfare benefits are not a constitutional right themselves. Most positions in the working class require a drug test to be administered.

Both working class jobs, private sector jobs and welfare recipients are receiving money from the government, the only difference is that two are working for that money, while the other is getting assistance provided to them from the tax payers. The most recognizable claim against requiring welfare recipients to pass a drug test is discrimination against the poor. However, in many (not all) jobs, in order to apply for certain positions, a drug test is administered, although that is hardly ever looked at as unconstitutional when corporate leaders are held accountable for their actions when accepting public funds. It is only fair that citizens relying on assistance from the government and society should be held to the same standard of others when receiving help that they couldn’t acquire on their own. (Wurman)

War on Drugs

While the war on drugs is to be seen as constitutional by many uneducated people, despite millions of tax payer dollars going to waste to fund wars, a simple drug test to prevent the never ending circle of taking advantage of tax paying citizens is seen as unconstitutional due to the fact that the profit of the war on drugs is much greater than the monitoring of welfare spending.

In 1980 50,000 people were in custody for drug related offences, many of them minor charges. While arresting masses of people, at the expense of yet again, tax payers, is constitutional, the monitoring of welfare is such a minor issue in comparison, when these citizens are being assisted, with only the request to comply to a simple test to prove that government money isn’t funding a drug addiction. (cdc gov)

While for obvious reasons, recreational drug use is illegal, and remains to be one of the biggest, money and time consuming issues in our society. It is an extreme contradiction to agree that drugs should be illegal, but to think that welfare recipients should not have to be tested to receive government benefits. This issue directly relates to the issue of Germaneness stated earlier. There is obviously a prominent reason to administer recipient’s drug tests when they are receiving aid from society, correlating drug users productivity to

Tax payer money saved due to the abolition of improper use of government funds. Welfare should be seen as a temporary aid used to help users get back on their feet in times of struggle, not a life style choice.

 It is undoubtedly certain that not only with this issue, but anything, corruption and abuse occur. Often times welfare is looked at as more of a tool to purchase unnecessary items such as cigarettes, and recreational drugs. While that is not the case with all recipients, it is often abused. Compared to the benefits welfare provides, a simple drug test seems detrimental to make into a burden, especially when many states supply reimbursement to recipients who pass the drug test. It is often questioned why someone who is getting assistance would be so concerned with taking a drug test, if they weren’t in fact doing drugs.

In 35 states welfare recipients receive more than minimum wage, in 13 states recipients receive more than $15 an hour. Annually there is around 1.3 trillion federal tax dollars invested into welfare. In Mississippi a non-working recipient can receive as much as $16,984 in benefits, even more shockingly, in the District of Columbia one can receive as much as $43,099. One would be naïve to say that when faced with the choice of working hard for that kind of money, or receiving a handout, that the average citizen would choose to work. The only way to decrease the level of dependence often found in the welfare system is to make work requirements stricter and to require random drug screenings to monitor fraudulent activity within the industry.

To prevent receiving benefits from becoming not only a mindset, but a lifestyle, welfare recipients should be required to do a number of community service hours if they are not currently working while being assisted. The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families is a very self-explanatory foundation, they offer grants to families that need temporary help and advocate employment while receiving benefits. The Government must do all that they can to prevent welfare from becoming a mindset, but more of what its intention was to be, a tool used for citizens to get back on their feet when they have failed to reach their potential.

 Money from denied drug tests will be reimbursed back into the state. Around 1.8 million dollars will be saved from unlawful uses of welfare benefits. This not only forces failed recipients to provide and work for themselves, which will eventually lead them to stop relying on welfare until they truly need it, but it allows truthful recipients to be granted all the benefits that welfare has to offer them, without the criticism from tax payers due to the reputation that welfare has received due to the fraudulent behavior that has been failed to be recognized by necessary drug screenings. (Bragdon)

On average, a welfare recipient costs the state $134 in monthly benefits, which the rejected applicants won't get, saving the state around $2,680-$3,350 per month, which will in turn be put into important factors in the economic cycle. (Bragdon) Drug tests as an incentive to end drug abuse

  1. Having to pass a random drug test could prove to be served as an incentive to welfare recipients to terminate masses of drug abuse issues.
  2. Government assistance is something that should only be used when needed, if a recipient truly needs the benefits of welfare, they will recognize that a drug test should be administered in order for them to acquire the help that is being offered. Many may look at this prospect as being a guideline to keep them away from drugs, and use the money they are being given for necessities until they no longer need it, and become successful members of the working class, which will give new applicants the chance to receive benefits that they truly deserve.
  3. Recipients who fail drug tests and have their benefits suspended for a certain amount of time will be more than likely to endure and learn from their struggle, making them much more likely to stay away from drug abuse.
  4. With the saved money from denied welfare benefits, tax payer’s earnings can be used to uphold much better state run rehabilitation facilities, which in turn can aid the relation between drug abuse and welfare benefits.

The war on poverty and its effect on America. The war on poverty was a legislature enacted by President Lyndon B. Johnson, in response to the poverty rate being around 19 percent. Johnson voiced the war on poverty in his first State of the Union Address. The goal of the war on poverty was to completely abolish poverty by funding programs that aided the poor during the 60s. This eventually created Medicaid and Medicare. What this program did was create the roots of today’s welfare system, and realistically stagger the work ethic of America.

The reason that the War on Poverty faces such criticisms is because it was enacted during a time period when the poverty line had just risen, rather than fallen, leading critics to believe that it was only delivered to pass welfare programs. The start of these programs triggered the growth of our government and the people’s dependency on it, allowing the government to be even more controlling. What the war on poverty ultimately did

Due to the surplus of attention paid to black Americans during this time, it is said to have been the cause of the popular idea of the white Americans footing the bill for African Americans. Whites during this time thought of the Great society programs as handouts for minorities that didn’t deserve their hard earned money. This attitude is reflected into today’s society as well.

Since the war on poverty, welfare has grown a whopping 19% in the past decade which is more than it has in history. Since the start of the War on Poverty, the government has spent around $19.8 trillion dollars in welfare programs, which is more than all three wars combined. Since 1969 around 2 million people collected food stamps, whereas around 47 million people do today. Since the start of welfare programs, fraudulent activity has played a large role in the system.

There always has been welfare recipients that take advantage of the benefits given to them, however, if they were drug tested and what they were spending tax payers money on was monitored, the effects of the War on Poverty could eventually be reversed and the spirit and worth ethic that was established in America will be in place again one day. A simple drug test is a small request in turn for the generous benefits that are received by millions of recipients daily. In order for our economy to thrive like it once did, there needs to be a strict monitoring on welfare program spending to not only better our economy, but the citizens in it. With less people taking advantage of the welfare system due to positive drug tests, the only people that would be benefiting from the system are the ones that truly need it.

Entitlement vs. Entrepreneurship

The most notable quality in the character of America is the Countries ability to breed innovative minds that benefit the economy. For as long as America has been around, the core of society has been centered around entrepreneurship. With all of the advancements made from entrepreneurs, the misspending of government funds is only taking back a step in society that entrepreneurship took. There are many factors that could effect this, but the main component that strips America of its sense of work ethic is the welfare system. By saying this, it does not mean that there aren’t thousands of families truly in need of government assistance, it is stating that the society of many welfare recipients have made themselves comfortable with not trying to better their economic well being.

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Should welfare recipients receive drug testing?. (2016, Aug 11). Retrieved from

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