Drugs in the Welfare System

There is much talk about restructuring our welfare system. In the past few decades there has been a general feeling that the welfare system is abused by many. This happens when people are given assistance with little expected of them in return; such as not requiring any long term plan to get a job and support themselves. A number of states have been in the spotlight recently for bills that would implement random drug testing for all welfare recipients. This is because some feel too many people use their state income to support their drug habit.

Against the Drug Testing

Some people are strongly against drug testing welfare recipients. Their argument is: “Holding benefit recipients accountable is an attack on women, children and the poor”. (1) They feel the cost of testing and enforcing a no-drug policy would be too overwhelming. They also say that too many children would suffer for the mistakes of their parents that are kicked out of the system.

In Favor of Drug Testing

Those people who are in favor of the legislation want to prevent drug users from getting public benefits. Their points include: “The bill would prevent the public from subsidizing recipients’ drug habits.” ” What’s really heartless is to leave defenseless children in the care of parents who can’t control their drug habits and, hence, can’t care for their children.” “Welfare should not be a right, but simply the result of the implementation of good public policy that helps them to become productive citizens that are not a burden to society.” (1)

Many people on this side of the matter also believe in providing treatment to those individuals that test positive for drugs to help them get sober. It is not good enough to withhold food stamps and benefits from drug addicts. They feel we need to identify these people and help them get better so they can help support themselves.

Dual Diagnosis

Things tend to get muddy when we add dual diagnosis cases into things. Many people worry that cutting someone’s benefits if they test positive for drugs will negatively affect those with dual diagnosis. Arguably, someone with a mental health disorder needs assistance and medical help for their condition. But when substance abuse is present along with the mental health issues, it is very hard to separate the co-occurring disorders. Therefore, many believe that coverage should be maintained for these patients, while they are getting treatment for both the mental disorders and drug or alcohol addiction.

Welfare wasn’t designed to take the place of someone’s income while they go out and spend their money on drugs or alcohol. But cutting someone with an addiction problem completely off of all benefits will only make them search out and find other ways to get their drugs. We need to find a good way to get substance abuse treatment for those in the welfare system so that they do not continue to waste their lives and our money away on drugs.

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