5 Things My Bratty Cousin Gets Wrong about Drug Testing for Government Assistance

Scientists have recently found a correlation in the brain patterns of teenagers and republicans. As it turns out, conservatives tend to have larger amygdala, the parts of the brain responsible for the majority of our survival instincts like fear and disgust, but also community and emotion. While liberals have a more defined anterior cingulate cortex, the brain region most closely associated with coping, delayed gratification, and the ability to look at multiple solutions. This also happens to be the region of our brain that matures the slowest—not fully formed until age 25 or so—mainly due to the inherent dangers our species faced before this failed social contract of ours. So in order for early humans to stay alive long enough to have children of their own, their brains needed to be hyper aware of anything that could potentially kill them; anything that could sap their resources; and all of the things that could take away their stuff. It’s not until we reach adulthood that the grey matter in our brains expands and the constant fight-or-flight triggers presumably subside. It’s like how most high schoolers display aggressive tendencies toward anyone not in their social circles or their own significant other (it’s the same thing with republicans but now America is the boyfriend). Still, even though we can pinpoint the evolutionary and developmental reasons why, it doesn’t stop me from telling my nineteen year old cousin to go to hell when she passes around some Change.org petition to drug test those in need of federal aid. Here are five reasons Megan needs to shut the fuck up!

5 – It Doesn’t Even Save Money

Just like crack-cocaine and making our beds, the whole concept of drug testing is yet another bitter remnant of the Reagan era. In 1988 it became required that any minor government agency require drug testing; with independent businesses quickly adopting the policy. As can be expected with any witch hunting mentality, workplace drug testing was considered a huge success! Mainly because the actual results were largely ignored. Fast forward to 2015 and 96% of workers tested negative for any drugs in their system, meaning (at an average of $30 per test) employers blew an estimated total of $263 million trying to solve a problem that wasn’t there.

“But those are the hardworking American humans who already have jobs”, you howl patriotically at the Big Mouth Billy Bass mounted on your wall. “Of course they are cut from a higher cloth than the subterranean morlocks sucking Uncle Sam’s coffers dry!” Once again, math:

As of now, fifteen states have implemented some form of drug screening or threat of drug screening for public assistance, with Arizona leading the charge in 2009 and other states following suit into the twenty-teens. So enough time has elapsed since these programs began to get some decent stats on their effectiveness, both in terms of finding these drugged out leeches and how much money it’s saved taxpayers by doing so. Reports from 2015 confirm that states spent $850,909.25 on these programs only to find 321 positive tests. To put that in business terms, that would be a -98.87% return on investment.

Unless you’re in cahoots with a lab that administers these tests
Unless you’re in cahoots with a lab that administers these tests

4 – It Places Unnecessary Strain

Being poor is expensive. Low income Americans already have to contend with a whole slew of hurdles not present in the lives of their higher paid counterparts and systems like these only add more.

I hate when trite statements from the past actually turn out to be true but it turns out time actually is money and if you already don’t have any money, wasted time can set you back even farther. Having to set aside time to have these tests administered cuts into a large portion of the applicant’s day. Assuming they have a car (per employed person in their household) it becomes more manageable but if they are relying on the bus or sharing a car with a partner (who surely has a schedule of their own) this could account for the loss of an entire day’s worth of wages, job hunting, or other productive behavior.

Because I personally don’t have a car, I’m forced to either walk four miles to the nearest grocery store or two blocks to the UDF, where I’ll have to pay higher prices and have to deal with the fact that they don’t sell condoms or scratch-offs because they’re that kind of religious.

Lack of transportation is just one thing that limits the options of the poor. Living in constant fear of the overdraft means that they get screwed on interest for making the low end on payments. Often times they’ll just straight up refuse to deal with a bank account in the first place, which coincidentally is where government agencies deposit your assistance. Yeah, you can always have the check mailed instead but then you have to drive to a place that cashes checks and pay whatever fee they charge to do so.

All of these indignities add up and, in a lot of not-even-all-that-extreme cases, adding one extra step to the welfare process turns a large group of potential SOBER applicants away.

3 – It Hurts Those It Intends To Help

Not only does it turn sober applicants away from receiving the financial aid their families need, it adds an extra measure of hostility—preventing people who might actually need treatment from seeking it out. Just like corporal punishment is a shit way to deal with bad behavior, this tough love mentality on drug abusers isn’t aimed at fixing the problem. Not that I have heaps of praise for self-flagellating 12-step programs either but at least no one in an NA meeting is going to undermine your progress.

A better allocation of these funds would be funneling them into treatment facilities and better pay for the people running them. As a capitalist society we hate the idea of “rewarding” those who haven’t contributed their fair share. The thing is though, a lot of problems like this could be solved if we’d just drop all that Red Scare bootstrap shit. Chronic homelessness, for instance, could not only be mitigated but save taxpayers pennies on the dollar by actually giving the homeless houses.

Jesus? Yeah, that dude was a socialist.

2 – The Screening Tests are Scientifically Dubious

The SASSI-3 questionnaire is the test that most of the states who have these drug testing policies in place use. Its purpose is to determine those at risk of abusive tendencies and is full of loaded statements for you to rate on a 1 to 5 scale based on how much you agree with each one. The assessment features entries like “Most people would lie to get what they want” and “Much of my life is uninteresting” and stinks vaguely of Myers-Briggs chicanery.

The SASSI Institute claims 93% reliability at determining the signs of a potential drug abuser. Impressive at a glance but all that proves is that they’re really good at predicting the answers to the questions that they made up. I’m not saying the test wasn’t formulated under scientific rigor at the time it was created but that was about three decades ago and has undergone little change since.

The scariest part though is that the research company has gone on record of criticizing their assessment being employed as a means to deny government assistance. On an easily accessible part of their website, they openly condemn the test’s use in these programs and state that such an action would be in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act. So tip of the hat to the creepy, for-profit pseudoscience company and a wag of the finger to unethical GOP douchebags.

1 – Maybe Aunt Amy Should Start Drug Testing You for Your College Textbooks!

On that note, maybe we should start drug testing our elected officials as well. Don’t forget to vote, people!

Author: Brian Fox

Brian's waking hours are dominated by pop culture, interspersed with humankind’s search for meaning. He founded this site out of contempt for excessive consumerism as well as a futile effort to reclaim culture from the 1990's blood-soaked talons. You can blame him on Ohio.

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