According to a study on the government of Canada’s website, in 2003, 1.7 million people were on government assistance and that number has continued to grow. The current unemployment rate in Canada is 7.2% and many of those families rely on the government to put food on the table, a roof over their heads and clothes on their bodies, meaning that money is absolutely necessary. However, working citizens are often resentful of the citizens taking the money that they earned and some are demanding that welfare recipients be drug tested in order to be eligible. Although nowhere in Canada requires drug testing to receive welfare, several states in the United States do. However, this idea fails to consider that drug testing recipients punishes children, ignores that drug addiction is a disease that needs treatment, and that it has proven to not save money. Therefore, drug testing in order to be eligible for welfare is callous and nothing but a symptom of discrimination and selfishness in society.
Taking away money from a citizen that tested positive for drugs would unfairly punish their children, who are innocent and didn’t choose to have the parents they were born to. 81.5% of assistance recipients in Oklahoma are children (Richey), which means that many children could suffer immensely because of their parent’s actions. If a person on welfare were to test positive for drugs and their funds were to be taken away, their children would lose their entire source of income, which would mean they would suffer infinitely more than they already did. The kids born to drug addicts would have no lunch money or clothes for school while alcoholics’ children still received funds. This would be extremely hypocritical and it is cruel to disadvantage children that already have the odds stacked against them. Living in poverty could cause them to do poorly in school and possibly turn to drugs themselves, completely obliterating any chance they had for a better future. It is possible to argue that if parents are using drugs, they are already wasting the money that could go towards their children. Although this argument is true, completely taking away all of the money is not going to solve the problem.
More over, sending more children into the already crowded foster care system would also only cause more problems, a fact that American Public Health Association, the National Association of Social Workers, and the National Association of Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Counselor all agree with as they oppose all laws mandating drug testing in order to receive government funding (Richey). Finally, the money that families receive could help struggling parents get into rehab and back on their feet, allowing the children to overcome poverty and live a better life. The blatant disregard for how drug testing those on welfare would ruin children’s lives proves that the policy is callous and selfish. In society it is common for citizens to discriminate and stigmatize drug addicts. They are stereotyped as lazy but in reality, drug addiction is a disease that needs treatment. A person addicted to drugs cannot simply quit when they want to.
Continued drug use changes the chemistry of the brain, alters its structure and its ability to function normally. Moreover, images taken of drug addicts’ brains show that the areas that are necessary for proper judgment, and behaviour control are greatly damaged. Once someone is addicted to drugs it is no longer a conscious choice to use, but something their body needs to function. It is wrong to discriminate against addicts because it is first and foremost, a disease, just like any other mental illness and there should not be any stigma attached to it. Therefore, entry into a medically supervised treatment centre is necessary so taking away that addict’s only source of income will not help them in any way and will only result in an increase in the homeless population. It is possible that some people on welfare may be waiting to get into a treatment program and need the money to support themselves while they do so.
The blatant disregard that the policy of drug testing welfare recipients has for the physical and neurological effects that drug addiction has on a person clearly indicates the callousness and discrimination that the policy demonstrates. The final and most important argument is that drug testing does not save any money. In fact it wastes it. The entire idea for drug testing is that drug user’s assistance could be terminated, and therefore save taxpayers from wasting their money however, this is not the case. The costs of producing and administering the tests have proven to cost more money than the governments saved from terminating those found to have been using drugs. Utah spent $30 000 drug testing people on welfare and only 12 people tested positive. Similarly, only 2% of people receiving government assistance in Florida failed the test, compared to national drug usage rate of 8% (Covert).
This suggests that the majority of drug users are not those living in poverty, and hints at the unjust discrimination they face. Additionally, a recent New York Times article stated that testing in Florida cost the government an additional $45 780, which is grossly wasteful. Comparably, out of the 8 states that are enforcing legislation, none of them are saving money. In Arizona, only 1 person in 3 years tested positive (Kelly). Every single study done has shown that the state governments are losing money but more and more states are proposing it and citizens of Canada are pushing for it as well. As of 2013, 29 states have proposed the legislation, which is completely nonsensical. If no money is being saved, why are so many people behind the policy? The only possible reason has to be selfishness and the reluctance of citizens for their taxes to be going toward fellow citizens less fortunate than themselves.
This exemplifies how drug testing the poor is simply a symptom of discrimination in society and not a means to save money. With all of the evidence considered, there is no rebutting the fact that drug testing in order to be eligible for welfare is callous and nothing but a symptom of discrimination and selfishness in society. The testing punishes children, which is unfair, ignores the fact that drug addiction is a disease and most significantly, doesn’t save any money. So many people are supporting this legislation but being poor should not result in someone being labeled as less than and a delinquent. It is unfair that the only standing reason for implementing or sustaining laws requiring drug testing is that people don’t want their money going to the less fortunate that ultimately, need it for survival. For any person that supports these legislations the main question that should be pondered is why? Why should the poor be drug tested when everyone receives government funds in one way or another? The fact is, they should not.
Covert, Bryce.”Utah Spent More Than $30,000 To Catch 12 Drug Users On Welfare.” ThinkProgress RSS. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Mar. 2014.
Kelly, Brian P. “An Inane, Money-eating Sham: Drug Tests for Welfare a Huge Failure.” Saloncom RSS. N.p., 29 Aug. 2013. Web. 23 Mar. 2014.
Richey, Kate. “Five Reasons Not to Drug-test.” Oklahoma Policy Institute. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Mar. 2014
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