Drug Tests For Welfare FAIL

A few years back I heard about the suggested new legislation to require all welfare recipients to take drug tests.  I was instantly skeptical. 

While I agree that welfare recipients should be drug free.  I don’t want them spending my hard earned (or would it be better said “my hard spent”) tax dollars on drugs.  But I saw this immediately as a money pit.  After all, drug testing is not free.  I wondered who was pushing this legislation and if they had an affiliation with a drug testing supply company of some sort.  But being the easily distracted person I am, I never bothered to follow up and look into the subject that deeply. 

My other problem is that a drug addict is not going to stop being a drug addict because they can’t get welfare. If someone is really an addict, they need help.  And if they get help, they have to really want that help, or its all for naught anyway.  But does this new system offer the person who fails this test some help?  Maybe a rehab program or course (which would also cost more money)?  Do they offer them a way to pull out of the hole they are in so that they can eventually be a contributing member of society?  Or does it just push them farther down the drain? 

That said, I realize the point is not to help an addict stop being an addict, it’s to stop giving them hand outs.  But an honest to goodness system abuser, is going to find a way to abuse any system you put in place.  If a drug user is a system abuser and they are on welfare, and they know they won’t get their next check if they fail a drug test, they are going to make sure they pass that test, then go right back to being the user that they are.  A career system abuser is happy to apply their effort to getting around the newest obstacle.  After all, they see this as their job.

So today I saw this graph about the results of Florida’s drug testing and its hurt on the tax payer. 

Oh Snap. 

2% failed, 96% passed, and it cost a bundle.

The New York Times reports that each test cost an average of $30.   So for each welfare recipient that took the drug test and passed, Florida tax payers spent an additional $30 on top of the welfare that person received. 

 New York Times article from April 17, 2012

(please note the graph is for a 12 month period and the New York Times article I link is for a four month time frame, so the numbers between the two do not match)


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  1. jennroxx

     /  October 1, 2012

    And they only had to pass once? That too seems hard to believe. Many drug addicts can get themselves clean for a minute to pass the test, pick up a check, and then go spend that on drugs.

  2. I’m sure the $30 is based on some basic drugs being tested and maybe not a battery of tests; the dollar amount sounds low, but mass produced, it could be cheap. I would find the 2% a bit low, but then, I can’t say. Randomizing would catch more if there are more than just 2% abusing. It is something to think about. I would rather have people on welfare actually working, like cleaning up streets of litter, working in soup kitchens, etc.

  3. PaulO

     /  April 5, 2013

    The graph is based on a misunderstanding of a Tampa Tribune article from a while back. The whole welfare program is $178 million.

    You can’t go from an extra $45k in 4 months to $178m in a year. You’re about three decimal places off. The $45k is the actual cost of the testing program for whatever period the NYT was looking at.


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