Thoughts on Drug Testing Welfare Recipients


It is a hotly debated topic, should those that receive welfare or aid be subject to medical testing to screen for drug use. There are convincing opinions on both sides of the argument. I am going to discuss my personal concerns for this implementation in this short essay semi-esoteric rant; they are both pragmatic and philosophical in nature.

Drug testing welfare recipient plans are not cost effective. Statistics show that state agencies that have independently employed this requirement actually lose money. This type of mandatory screening is also a violation of medical privacy rights and constitutional rights. By far the worst effect it has on our nation is the creation of a new subclass of citizens and trivial mnemonics that essentially distract the brain but offer no real gain of insight or learning. These things combined create a veritable stumbling block for the evolution and progression of our nation.

We are currently struggling with a recovering economy and overall lack of funds and monetary gain. Everyone has had to make some sacrifices and cut back on spending. Individuals, agencies and corporations have all experienced this in different forms. The individual might engage in cutting back on spending and trimming expenses while businesses are forced to cut jobs; agencies are forced to cut things from their budget.  This high pressure state of things makes it logical that new avenues are explored to combat extraneous spending and bring financial security. However, these plans need to make sense and function to their purpose. Otherwise they are simply a societal panic response.

Florida is a prime example of the inefficiency of this type of regulation. Last summer they released statistics from their state welfare drug testing program. The law requires all welfare applicants to initially pay out of pocket for drug screening. If their tests come back negative for drugs the state will reimburse the individual and grant benefits. Of all the people tested less than three percent of applicants came back with positive test results. The state of Florida paid back over one hundred and eighteen thousand dollars in testing expenses to approved applicants. That in addition to the costs of running the program the state is now much worse off as far as budget than they were before the law was implemented.

The main claim of supporters of these programs is that making drug tests mandatory will end up saving agencies money and that those who do not use drugs will not be in opposition to this. To begin with this logic is faulty. It’s an added expense to the processing of new applicants as well as a requirement for current individuals to maintain benefits. Additional costs mean that less of the allotted money is going to individuals in need and more going to maintaining the program through which assistance is sought. This creates a self-sustaining profitable economy on something that was marketed, designed, and funded to be a poverty relief solution. Secondly those who realize this effect are subsequently chastised with the imposed assumption that they themselves must be drug users.

Drug testing in this regard is also a severe breach of medical privacy and constitutional rights. An applicant on certain medicines, for example, may be forced to divulge that information as well as their diagnosis and treating physician’s information to explain a positive drug test result. These requirements are also a negation of our constitutional rights. Fairness is argued due to a standardized process across the board for recipients. Regardless of the stated guidelines of the program the fourth amendment of the constitution guarantees citizens the right against unreasonable search and seizure of without probable cause. These programs which are administered by government agencies are essentially an unreasonable search of a person’s body. The perceived actions and stereotypes of a socio-economic group do not justify probable cause.

A far less obvious but potentially more damaging consequence of these types of regulations is the perceived creation of a sub class of citizens. High pressure being exerted on an economic class by external circumstances creates a need for relief through exchange of pressure. Because we can only work within the system we have built the next logical step in this scenario is to create a divide based on consensually accepted factors. This separates the initial class of people into seemingly now two groups of individuals: Those on welfare and those that are not on welfare.

By creating this subclass the main body of the social economic class seems to have an appropriate party to not only blame, but to also manipulate and control in order to reach their desired results. The problem with this is that it is completely fabricated. The economic subclass does not exist. Instead emotional triggers and stereotypes are used to define a subset of the original group, which is still the only actual group in this context. Doing this creates a diversion of the mind, an illusion of solution and a lot of bickering in the box of the particular socio-economic class system. Instead of focusing on the system itself to conceive solutions and build real alternatives we create illusionary solutions. The effect of the illusionary solution in essence keeps us in the situation we are in. This takes up our time and consumes our thoughts with not only execution, but righteousness and debate. It effectively inhibits any real change or social evolution.

It is small, seemingly arbitrary decisions such as this that compound and decide our future. Drug testing welfare recipients seems at first glance a logical approach to dealing with abuses of the welfare system. Upon examination however, it is shown that it is exactly the acceptable applied logic within any given system that keeps the current status quo. Change only comes from unique perspective and revolutionary applications of such. I would put forth that we need to understand this and set precedent that requires innovation. For this particular issue an important realization is that enforcing mandatory drug tests is effectively making a scapegoat of the poor for political interests under the guise of saving money. We need to make it our position that we do not support this type of pseudo solution. Bickering in our box will fundamentally affect the possibilities we will never have.



  • American Civil Liberties Union. 2012. Just as We Suspected: Florida Saved Nothing by Drug Testing Welfare Applicants. [online] Available at:
  • Houston Chronicle. 2013. Drug-testing welfare applicants popular, but can be problematic. [online] Available at:
  • Huffington Post. 2011. Federal Judge Says Welfare Drug Testing Saves No Money. [online] Available at:
  • MSNBC. 2013. Taking welfare drug tests to the national level. [online] Available at:
  • 2011. Drug Tests for Welfare Recipients. [online] Available at:
  • The New York Times. 2013. The New York Times. [online] Available at:
  • Washington Post. 2013. States want drug tests for welfare recipients. That’s a terrible idea.. [online] Available at:
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