Drug Testing and Mandatory Treatment for Welfare Recipients
Chronic drug use is one of those subjects that individuals are not open to discussing. Society regards liquor and medication clients and addicts as languid, flighty individuals who settle on helpless decisions and therefore deserve the bad things that happen to them. A few families put forth an admirable attempt to shroud their individuals who have addictions and are seen to be “cutting down the family name”. Numerous government officials have seen their professions come unraveled as a result of quite a while in the past substance misuse charges.
Individuals see substance maltreatment as some sort of good fizzling, instead of as a real clinical wellbeing concern. Fixation isn’t something to be dealt with, it is something to be embarrassed about. This shame brings about individuals not getting the assistance they need, and as a rule, falling into an endless pattern of dependence. If those people also happen to be poor, their problems are amplified by social assumptions that poverty has resulted from drug abuse (when in some cases, it is the reverse that is true). We see examples of these assumptions regularly in our everyday lives.
We buy food for homeless people instead of giving them the change in our pockets “because they would only spend money on alcohol”. We infer that a rumpled man in the city with wild eyes and shaking hands is experiencing delirium tremens as opposed to thinking that possibly he is sick and can’t manage the cost of his medicine. When we see someone passed out on the sidewalk, we jump to the conclusion that this person has passed out from too much drinking before we think of the possibility of a medical emergency.
With these attitudes so deeply ingrained in our social fabric, it is perhaps not surprising that in some parts of the world, governments have started to turn to drug testing. Not the random drug testing you may be familiar with from the professional or athletic world, but rather, drug testing dependent social assistance.
Allies of this move guarantee that administrations are sparing assessment dollars by denying government assistance installments to individuals who might utilize the cash to help their addictions. Rivals guarantee that not exclusively does tranquilize testing government assistance candidates not set aside citizen cash, it really winds up costing the citizen more. Moreover, it does a great deal of damage to two groups of people who are already vulnerable: low-income individuals and families, and people suffering from substance abuse disorders.
Where is Welfare Drug Testing Done?
In Canada, the Ontario government has sporadically discussed plans to execute a medication testing program, however up until now, this has not happened as expected.
How do Drug Test Programs Work?
In its original form, the drug testing program worked exactly the way its title suggests: social assistance program applicants would be required to submit a urine or hair sample for drug testing in order to determine eligibility for payments. If they refused the testing, or if they tested positive for a controlled substance, they could have their payments denied, and they would be ineligible to reapply for a period of time. Repeat “offenders” could be permanently banned from receiving payments.
In Florida, the drug testing laws were in place for four months before being paused by a court injunction. A legal challenge that had been mounted made the claim that “suspicionless testing” – compelling welfare recipients to undergo a drug test without any concrete reason to suspect that they were actually using illicit drugs – was in violation of human rights laws, since it constituted a search without cause.
In response to this, several states tweaked their programs by introducing a questionnaire called SASSI (Substance Abuse Subtle Screening Inventory). The yes-or-no style questions are designed to assess the probability of the individual having a substance use disorder. If an applicant “fails” this test, reasonable suspicion of drug use is deemed to be present, and the applicant is required to undergo the drug test.
How Effective are the Welfare Drug Testing Programs?
The short answer is “not very”.
During the four months for which Florida performed drug tests on social assistance program applicants, over 4,000 people were tested. Of these, just 2.6% tested positive. According to CLASP, a non-profit organization that is advancing policy solutions for low-income people, Florida’s drug-testing law cost the state around $1 million (including the cost of the court challenge).
In the thirteen states that require drug screening or testing for the TANF (temporary assistance for needy families) program, out of 260,000 people tested, a mere 338 tested positive for a controlled substance – a percentage of positive tests that is so low that it has no statistical meaning.
Is SASSI an Accurate Predictor of Substance Abuse?
The Encyclopedia of Mental Disorders states that the SASSI screening questionnaire can determine with 94% accuracy that an individual has a substance use disorder. While this number is high, there is limited independent research to verify it. Even if this is an accurate number, the SASSI Institute itself says that use of the questionnaire for screening welfare applicants could be problematic from a legal standpoint. Employers are not allowed to eliminate job applicants on the basis of their SASSI scores, since this is in contravention of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). It is conceivable that a court of law will come to the same finding with regard to welfare recipients.
Is Welfare Drug Testing Harmful?
One of the biggest problems with welfare drug testing is that it is based on the assumption that people who are addicted to drugs or alcohol are acting out of choice. Nobody who has a glass of wine or a puff of a marijuana joint intends to become addicted. Substance use disorders are just that – disorders. They are legitimate physical and mental health concerns, and they should be treated as such. People with drug and alcohol addictions should be helped, not stigmatized.
A second major flaw with welfare drug testing programs is that they imply a link between addiction and poverty that does not exist. There is a perception that people with addictions are unemployed layabouts who go to rough neighbourhoods to get their “fixes”. The reality is that substance abuse does not discriminate. Many people with addictions have jobs, homes and families.
Actually, studies show that liquor addiction is more conspicuous among wealthier, more taught individuals than it is among low-pay workers with less instruction. While narcotic compulsion is by all accounts higher in low-salary networks, this could be a consequence of an absence of training, implying that individuals take meds recommended by their PCPs, without understanding the dangers.
There are some basic flaws in welfare drug testing laws that make them inherently unfair.
A Drug Test Fails to Identify Substance Abuse
All a drug test can do is detect the presence of a substance at a single point in time. It can’t decide when the individual really utilized the medication: most medications can be distinguished in the pee for as long as four days after a solitary use, and a few tests will restore a positive outcome as long as a month after delayed use has finished.
Another thing the test cannot do is actually determine whether someone has a substance use disorder. Testing positive for medication isn’t equivalent to needing treatment. This assurance must be made by the person, alongside relatives, dear companions and clinical experts.
Legal Substances can Yield Positive Results
5-10% of positive drug tests are thought to result from legitimate use of painkillers, antihistamines and a number of other prescription and over-the-counter medications. This raises the possibility that the number of welfare applicants who actually have controlled substances in their system at the time of testing is even smaller than the statistics tell us.
Drug Testing can Leave Families Worse Off
Individuals accepting government assistance have an authentic requirement for it. They utilize the cash to take care of their families, keep a rooftop over their heads, and take care of their utility tabs. By and large, families getting social help can’t meet these budgetary commitments. They need to pick which bill to not pay, or at what time they can eat the one dinner they can bear to have. A ton of government assistance beneficiaries do have occupations, yet they are paid so inadequately that they actually need government assistance for themselves and their families.
Medication testing frequently leaves families more regretful than they were in any case, since certain states do it at the candidate’s cost. While the individuals who test negative for controlled substances set aside their cash, and are given full discounts, they may cause late expenses on charges that went past contribution because of the medication test. Applicants who test positive for controlled substances have to pay for the testing cost, leaving them with less money for their families. What’s worse is that in some states, such as North Carolina, people who test positive are forced to enter drug treatment programs at their own expense.
This prompts an entire host of issues, the greatest of which is that individuals on social help have hardly any monetary assets, all things considered, and it is unnecessarily remorseless to constrain them to pay for a program that they may not require.
Another issue is that the refusal of social help following a positive medication test can have a thump on impact on different individuals from similar families accepting advantages. Most states with government assistance drug testing programs have laws that shield kids from losing their advantages if a guardian either tests positive or won’t be tried. Numerous guardians may not understand this, however, and they may avoid applying for their youngsters’ advantages since they accept they would be declined.
Being dependent on medications or liquor is hard. Being trapped in a pattern of neediness is hard.
At the point when medication testing is utilized to decide qualification for social help, the two gatherings – the neediness stricken and the dependent – are additionally underestimated. It is insensitive to expose needy individuals to medicate tests since they’re poor, and it is coldhearted to impede somebody’s admittance to social help since that individual experiences a fixation.Money that is currently being used or slated for mandatory drug testing would be better used if it were channelled toward correctly identifying people who need treatment for substance abuse problems, and then giving them the help they need.