Drug testing for welfare recipients: Pro

The Concordian Politics Blog

See the opposing argument here.

There was a saying during the Great Depression that “It used to be when a man was down on his luck, he went west. Now, he goes on welfare.” Social safety-nets were instituted during that time in our history in order to give the masses suffering from a protracted economic collapse some form of relief. They were common sense measures, intended to be a type of temporary relief for a person out of work, and a triumph of FDR’s Presidency. Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, unemployment relief, public assistance and other programs were intended to help the struggling American people and to give them time to get back on their feet and start working again. These programs were created during the 1930’s, before the amazing medical advances that have allowed us to live longer, before the greater standard-of-living that we now take for granted and before the war on drugs was declared.

Now, welfare has become more accepted by mainstream American society, and it has become more of a long term commitment for some. More people than ever are now dependent on government handouts in order to survive, and the workforce is slowly shrinking as people give up looking for jobs and see government assistance as the only way to put food on the table. The economic downturn and the slow “recovery” have left significant amounts of Americans in poverty and in need of assistance. These programs are necessary as social safety nets, but they were designed to be temporary, and reciprocal. This means that welfare is not intended to be a one way street. In the words of Robert Rector, Senior Research Fellow in Domestic Policy at the Heritage Foundation, “Taxpayers should provide support to those in need; recipients, in return, should engage in responsible and constructive behavior as a condition of receiving aid.”

What this means is that welfare is a social contract between the people in need and those providing for them. If taxpayers are required to give part of their earnings to people who are in need, it would be reasonable to expect that the people receiving welfare assistance should be held to certain standards in order to ensure the temporary nature of the assistance and to lead to their quick re-entry into the workforce. Drug tests would ensure that this level of responsible behavior is upheld by those receiving assistance.

Another reason for mandatory drug testing for welfare recipients is that it is fair. People who are working have to take a drug test in order to conform to the employee standards of the company that they work for. Many companies mandate drug tests as a condition of employment. Many colleges require physicals (including drug tests) before a student begins his or her studies at that institution. The military performs drug tests. Professional sports teams perform drug tests. Throughout our lives, the vast majority of people are required to take a drug test at one time or another for various reasons, in order to ensure that they are complying with the law. Welfare recipients should be held to the same standard as everybody else in this regard.

Finally, According to Dr. Pollack of the Substance Abuse Policy Research Program, psychiatric disorders (most notably depression and PTSD) are more prevalent amongst welfare recipients than drug use, though he also reports that 20% of welfare recipients admit to recent use of illicit drugs. Mandatory testing for welfare recipients, not just drug testing but also psychiatric and medical testing, could allow for those in need to receive proper medical care in order to help them with any medical conditions that they are dealing with and allow them to reenter the workforce more quickly upon recovery. Mandatory testing would not only hold welfare recipients to the same standard as everybody else, but it also would perform a critical service as a means of assistance for those suffering from psychiatric disorders, medical disorders, and/or abuse problems.

This is a very tough issue. Tensions will be high on both sides. I thoroughly respect and understand the opinion of the other side, that welfare recipients should not be subjugated to drug tests. While I respect their point of view, I humbly contend that they are wrong in this regard. In order to ensure the social contract between those being provided for and those doing the providing is not broken, each side must trust the other. Welfare recipients must trust that they will be taken care of when they need it, and those who pay for that care must trust that it is necessary and that it is, above all, temporary. Drug tests could go a long way to ensure that this social contract remains strong.


Heritage Foundation


Substance Abuse Policy Research Program




  1. Avatar

    While I agree that welfare recipients should not do illicit drugs…period.
    But as far as catching mental illnesses (that many, poor or rich) self-medicate with) and thus proactively treating the poor for these illnesses is a laughable fantasy.
    Care, counseling, psychiatrists, LCSWs, psychologists, psychiatric beds and staff are completely understaffed for the lower income population.
    As a patient, I have waited up to 3 months for an appt with a social worker, and 60 days more to see a shrink and receive meds, if you have Medicaid. If you have no insurance, you must apply to manufacturers or local charities. I had 1 med that was over $400/ month!!! I felt guilty to take so much from a charity and stopped taking it.
    The belief that drug testing is ultimately a good thing and the patient will receive care is insanity. We are poor, and you don’t want to pay shit for us. STOP acting like good Christians, y’all believe that somehow we poor are responsible for our poverty and mental illness. And there are some, but not many.
    STOP assuaging your guilt by pretending this will help the poor mentally ill.
    You are hypocrites and we know 98% of you could care less.

    The Poor Crazy People
    We will all face the Truth and you will be found wanting.

    1. Avatar

      Mags King,

      Growing up poor and being subjected to and having friends and family with mental illness and autoimmune diseases, I can wholeheartedly say I can feel your pain. I also admire your ability to speak out and call it for what it is. As a Christian, I see it, realistically speaking, almost everyone has committed some hypocritical act in their life. I have friends that are gay, I know lesbians, pot-heads, and other “sinners” like me. Now, to the point, I do not necessarily agree with certain lifestyles, just as you may not as well, but for someone to so boldly speak out and claim to be a Christian, yet turn a blind eye, is not Christian-like. Unfortunately, our government is invested in other affairs, and the wealthy rule over the poor. The typical “American-Christian” seems to live in this fantasy life where they are perfect, make good money, and judge anyone and anything in a heart beat. I see it a lot, which is one of the reasons why I avoid going to church. I believe in tithing, but unfortunately, it is difficult for me to give 10% of my earnings to a “Church” where the pastor drives a Corvette, the wife drives a Escalate, and their son drives a BMW, and they all show up at separate times from the same location.

      It takes, what I like to call, a “true-Christian”, little effort to stop and see someone suffering, little effort to stop and pray, help, give, assist, befriend, and take-in someone that is struggling, poor, and just not going through life like the “American Dream”. I am white, but I have black, Japanese, Mexican, Hawaiian, Indian, rich, poor, gay, lesbian, Christian, non-Christian friends. I stand by my beliefs and try my best to follow the “Christian” path that Jesus laid out for us; “Love your neighbor” was basically his only commandment; and I feel sorry for the “Christians” that are lost in their own world, ignoring everything else. The poor are not responsible for their poverty, it is basically due to unfortunate circumstances, i.e. mental illness, medical disabilities, veterans from wars, etc. Sometimes people don’t have a choice in how their health and wellness outcome is, especially from birth, which is why “Christians” should play a leading role in helping and assisting those in need, since the government is only “kind of” helping.

      A Christian and Military Veteran, that grew up poor, knows he is not perfect, and has compassion for those in need.

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