Drug Screening for Food Stamps Beneficiaries


Vetting applicants for food stamps is a common procedure. To qualify, one must meet certain criteria. One of the basic requirements is that everyone applying for food stamps must have a social security number and qualify as a US citizen or alien as per the stipulated requirements. Other aspects include the limit on the value of resources owned. During the interviewing of applicants, proof of identification, income, spending on childcare, rent and medical care are necessary. However, although it is an important consideration, most states have not incorporated drug screening in the vetting of beneficiaries of food stamps. Subjecting food stamps’ beneficiaries to a mandatory drug screening will eliminate misuse of resources and ensure that only individuals with genuine needs receive help. Individuals who can afford enough money to buy drugs demonstrate that their level of income is dependable and thus do not need assistance in terms of food stamps.

Implications of Illegal Drugs Use

The main objective of food stamps is to help individuals under the category of low-income earners to access food. Research on the spending on commonly used illegal drugs demonstrates that Americans annually spend billions of dollars on illegal substances. A 1995 survey shows that expenditures on cocaine amounted to 38 billion dollars while users of heroin spent 10 billion dollars on the drug. Expenditures on marijuana amounted to 7 billion dollars while users of other illegal substances spend an estimated 3 million dollars (Rhodes et al., 4). Apart from promoting the misuse of income, drug consumption causes numerous negative impacts on the society. It fosters crime, introduces health problems and creates unproductive individuals within the society. Consumption of drugs introduces economic burdens on members of the public who bear costs associated with the financing of the criminal justice system, rehabilitation centers and drug-treatment programs. Furthermore, the economic implications associate with the consumption of illegal drugs affect the funding of food stamps and other welfare programs.

Importance of Subjecting Food Stamps Beneficiaries to Drug Screening

Subjecting the beneficiaries of food stamps to mandatory drug screening will ensure the appropriate utilization of taxpayers’ money and discourage irresponsible individuals from taking advantage of programs meant for genuine low-income earners. Research shows that a significant percentage of individuals enrolled in the food stamps program use the welfare checks to obtain illegal drugs and other contrabands such as guns (Pemble, 104). This has promoted the thriving of the illegal drugs business through which corrupt dealers make supernormal profits. Thus, users of illegal drugs are converting the welfare program into a tool for promoting corruption and the drug menace. The possibility of suspension or debarment from the food stamps program will ensure responsibility among the welfare beneficiaries. Drug screening will create a framework that will help the government to save millions of dollars by eliminating unnecessary costs. An upward trend in the number of beneficiaries of the food stamps illustrates that deficit in the federal budget will likely increase due to the fraudulent acts of drug users enrolled in the welfare program. Drug screening will discourage drug consumption and reduce the economic burdens associated with drug-related costs. The government can channel the funds used within the criminal justice system to tackle drug-related crimes and in the rehabilitation of drug addicts to national projects that will promote economic independence within the country. Economic independence means that less people will depend on the food stamps program.

While the opponents of the mandatory drug screening for welfare recipients consider the procedure as a humiliation of the needy, they fail to consider that entertaining drug users in the welfare program is subjecting taxpayers to the subsidization of the costs of illegal drugs and substances. Incorporating drug screening in the interviewing process will make it a normal procedure just like the proof of expenditure on medical care and rent. To maintain the dignity of the participants, individuals should undergo an interview to establish their drug history. If the interview introduces suspicion concerning a beneficiary’s drug history, then individuals may have to submit to more extensive tests such as chemical test. In addition, due to the economic status of the participants in the drug screening, the procedure should be free of charge.

The socioeconomic status of low-income earners exposes them to various vices within the society. Drug consumption within this group creates an environment that is a threat to economic prosperity. Thus, drug screening is not discriminatory based on societal classes as asserted by some opponents of mandatory drug screening for food stamps beneficiaries. Considering an estimated monthly participation of 47 million people in the food stamps program, cost reduction is a crucial consideration if the program is to remain viable (Cortright 1). Reports on the federal expenditures on the welfare program indicate the use of an estimated 75 billion dollars. Stringent measures will maximize the average benefits for welfare recipients. Instead of the government cutting the welfare funding and limit the benefits for participants in the food stamps program, it should reevaluate the eligibility of the welfare beneficiaries.


Drug consumption is an unproductive behavior and supporting it promotes irresponsibility within the society. Access to food stamps by drug users encourages them waste income that would have otherwise funded the needs catered for by the food stamps program. Despite their irresponsible lifestyles, drug users have the guarantee of obtaining their welfare checks due to the lack of appropriate regulations in the food stamps program within various states. While there are genuine beneficiaries of the welfare program, other individuals exploit taxpayers’ efforts and use welfare benefits to support their drug-addiction. The funds used by such individuals could support beneficial national projects.