Should People Seeking Government Assistance Be Required to Take Drug Tests?

“Shouldn’t you have to pass a urine test to get a welfare check since I have to pass one to earn it for you? ” That’s the question many, hardworking Americans are asking themselves. In today’s America, government aid is highly depended on. The US government has spent $498 billion dollars this year on welfare alone. Mandatory drug testing for welfare applicants is becoming a popular idea across the U. S. Many states including Alabama, Kentucky, Oklahoma and Louisiana are considering adopting laws that would require states to drug test welfare applicants.

In Florida, Republican Gov. Rick Scott passed a law that required welfare applicants to pay for and pass a drug test from July through October 2011. According to the National Conference for State Legislatures, Florida was one of three states in 2011 to put a drug testing for public assistance in the books; twenty eight states in 2012 proposed similar measures. The Department of Children and Families reported that 108 people tested positive for drugs, while 3,936 adults showed no sign of drugs in their system.

Another 2,306 people opted not to take the drug test, though the survey did not ask why they were refusing to take the test, so there is no data to show whether those people objected to the policy or had obtained employment and therefore canceled their application. In September 2011, a University of Central Florida student, with the help of the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, sued the state over the new law mandating drug testing of all welfare applicants. A little more than a month after the suit was filed, a federal judge ordered a temporary stop to the drug testing.

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Drug testing welfare applicants was considered unconstitutional by many citizens, they claimed it went against The Fourth Amendment. The Fourth Amendment of the U. S. Constitution provides, “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized. Ultimately, these words strive to protect two fundamental liberty interests – the right to privacy and freedom from personal invasions. The Supreme Court has ruled out a number of incidents as to what an “unreasonable” search looks like. So far, it doesn’t look like a drug test to control how people on welfare spend their money. Supposedly, the mandatory drug tests are designed to reduce deficits, utilize tax-payer money more efficiently, and encourage “personal responsibility. The government now will have the power to kick people off welfare, or otherwise simply deny them welfare, should the person fail their mandated drug test. Aside from deterring these self-destructive behaviors, they believe they will also save millions of dollars because they suspect they will no longer have to subsidize the drug dependencies of a substantial amount of recipients. When Reagan became President in 1986, he began to push drug testing in the workplace, schools, and those applying for free benefits as part of the escalating war on drugs.

Since then, drug testing has proliferated to the rest of society. For some businesses, it has become a major hiring tool, while for others it does not exist. For those that do use drug testing, it comes on many forms. Tests range from urine based to hair based to drug recognition experts; each test has its own strengths and weaknesses. The easiest and cheapest tests to perform are urine tests. The most basic and easiest to perform is called an EMIT test. EMIT stands for enzyme multiplied immunoassay technique and involves a urine sample from the subject.

The test looks for certain enzymes that occur in the body when certain drugs are consumed. Unfortunately for employers, this test is one of the most undependable of the tests available. It can be easily beaten if the subject knows that they are being tested. Tests can be tampered with in many ways. Another urine test is the gas chromatography test. With this test the urine sample is separated into its component parts. The components are then carried by an inert gas into columns where the parts are separated by their boiling temperature. Each specific compound will be identifiable from the est by its unique separation time. This test is far more reliable than an EMIT test, but there are still instances of errors when certain legal substances are present. A test that is more reliable and harder still to beat is the RIA test. RIA stands for radio immunoassay and it uses the same process as the EMIT test except this test uses radioactive iodine as the detection method rather than an enzyme. Drug metabolite levels are inversely proportional to the level of radioactive particles present. The RIA test is much more reliable and even harder to beat than the gas chromatography test.

However, the U. S. Military is the only major employer using the RIA test. This is due to the fact that the RIA test creates radioactive waste as a result which is extremely difficult to handle and dispose of. The next step up from the RIA test is the gas chromatography/mass spectrometry test. This test utilizes what the gas chromatography started, except that it takes the process further. After the urine has been separated into its basic components, the mass spectrometer analyzes the components and provides exact molecular identification for them.

Since this test is the most expensive and the most accurate of the urine tests, businesses will usually only use this test to confirm a positive result on the EMIT test. The next cheapest test to perform is a saliva test. Saliva tests are becoming more common due to their relative unobtrusiveness and their ability to detect drug use in a more recent timeframe, usually within one week. The biggest problem with saliva tests is that there are no nationally accepted concentration cutoffs. Also, the saliva test is better at detecting methamphetamines and opiates but is much less capable of detecting THC and other cannabinoids.

The last test on the list is the blood test. This test requires a sample of blood from the subject which is then sent to a lab for analysis. The cost of the blood test is quite high when compared to all the rest of the tests available. Businesses that are willing to pay for the blood test are getting the most accurate test that they can subject an employee or applicant to. The only problem with blood tests is that they can only detect substances that remain in the blood for a while. If a substance is easily flushed from the blood, it will not appear on a test if the subject has not used recently.

Despite their reliability, blood tests are not used often. Most of the time, similar results can be obtained using a cheaper and less intrusive method of testing. Is this all fair? Many people argue it absolutely is. After all, welfare recipients receive millions of American dollars in aid every year. It would only be fair for them to be tested to ensure the assistance is dispersed of properly. Also, many places of employment practice random drug testing. If it happens in the workforce, why would it be unfair for welfare recipients?

There are many pros and cons of this issue. The biggest positive outcome of this program is that it would discourage recipients from purchasing and using illegal drugs. This might mean they don’t even need the welfare in the first place. It could also keep children and society safer. It could help lower the demand for illegal drugs on the streets. It could possibly even save the system some money; as those who are on drugs would not receive welfare. It could even create new jobs for people to run the drug testing.

However, there are many cons of mandatory drug testing for people on welfare as well. One of the biggest negatives is that it is costly. Illegal drug testing is not cheap. It could cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, even if just one of every five recipients was tested. However, this may be rationalized by saying that the cost that drugs have on our society in general would be lowered. Another negative is that some people who are on prescription medication could show false positives, and be discriminated against, even with a doctor’s involvement.

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