A comparison of drug use between welfare-receiving arrestees and non-welfare-receiving arrestees. (Practice Forum).
These studies have two major methodological limitations. First, with the exception of Weisner and Schmidt (1993) and Bassuk et al. (1998), rates of drug use among welfare recipients were not compared with rates among non-welfare-receiving samples. Second, none of the studies used an objective measure of drug use. In the current study, we overcame these previous limitations by examining whether welfare-receiving arrestees tested positive for illegal drugs at rates comparable to non-welfare-receiving arrestees living below the poverty level and to non-welfare-receiving arrestees living above the poverty level. We made this distinction among subgroups because we suspected that some welfare-receiving arrestees would fail to report public assistance as their primary source of income or that some arrestees did not even receive public assistance despite an income that indicated eligibility.
The National Institute of Justice established the Arrestee Drug Abuse Monitoring (ADAM) Program in 1987 (Yacoubian, 2000). Data for the current study were collected from adult arrestees surveyed through Philadelphia's ADAM program in 1997. During the four quarters of calendar year 1997, research personnel obtained selfreport survey data and urine specimens from 862 arrestees.
After answering demographic questions, arrestees were asked to report whether they had used a number of specific drugs during their lifetime, during the past 12 months, during the past 30 days, and during the past three days. In addition, a urine specimen was collected and screened for 10 drugs. It is important to note that urine specimens are capable of detecting the presence of illegal drugs up to 72 hours after ingestion. Unlike hair testing, which offers historical drug use data, urine specimens are sensitive to recent drug use. The sole exception is marijuana, which can be detected for up to 30 days in the urine of chronic users.
DATA ANALYSIS AND FINDINGS
Of the 862 arrestees in the sample, 196 (23 percent) reported welfare or Supplemental Security Income as their main source of income within the past 30 days. These arrestees were identified as the welfare-receiving subgroup. The remaining arrestees were divided into non-welfare-receiving arrestees living below the poverty level (annual incomes of less than $8,300, n = 312) and non-welfare-receiving arrestees living above the poverty level (annual incomes above $8,300, n = 354) based on reported income (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2000). Demographic characteristics among the three subgroups were comparable (Table 1).
The most prevalent drug among the welfarereceiving arrestee population was cocaine (48 Percent), followed by marijuana (27 percent) (Table 2). The only statistically significant differences among the three groups were with cocaine and marijuana. For example, 48 percent of the welfare-receiving arrestees tested positive for cocaine, compared with 39 percent of the non-welfare-receiving arrestees living above the poverty level (p < 0.01).
Drug-Positive Rates, by Gender
There were significant gender differences across the three subgroups. Among the welfare-receiving arrestees, 58 percent of the female arrestees tested positive for cocaine, compared with only 30 percent of the male arrestees (p < .001) (Table 3). Among the non-welfare-receiving arrestees living below the poverty level, 65 percent of the women tested positive for cocaine, compared with only 36 percent of the men (p < .001). Among the non-welfare-receiving arrestees living above the poverty level, 52 percent of the women tested positive for cocaine, compared with only 34 percent of the men (p < .001).
In the current study we demonstrated that welfare-receiving arrestees were similar in their drug-using behaviors to non-welfare-receiving arrestees living below and above the poverty level. These findings may hold implications for how welfare-receiving clients are perceived and how substance abuse prevention and treatment programs are implemented across social services settings. Given the results, media reports that have stigmatized welfare-receiving populations as "more drug-using" seem unjustified.
Although the generalizability of our findings to the non-arrestee welfare-receiving population is an empirical question, the difference for cocaine-positives in our sample should be an area of concern for social services providers. If welfare-receiving and welfare-eligible clients test positive for cocaine at rates higher than their non-welfare-receiving counterparts, there may be a critical need for increased drug surveillance systems and drug treatment referrals for individuals receiving public assistance.
Drug testing of welfare recipients is an inexpensive method through which drug use can be identified. Although the legality and reasonableness of drug testing welfare recipients is open to debate (Legal Action Center, 1997), urine testing can be an effective first step in identifying drug use problems. Although positive urine tests are not necessarily indicative of drug dependence, supplemental diagnostic tools can be administered to assess treatment need. Because welfare recipients are subject to time-limited benefits that require the eventual transition to work and given the inexorable link between substance abuse and failed employment, jurisdictional welfare providers would be well-advised to identify potential drug use problems and treatment needs before the transition to private employment.
Table 1. Demographic Characteristics Welfare-Receiving and Non-Welfare-Receiving Arrestees (N = 862) % Non-Welfare-Receiving % Welfare-Receiving Arrestees Living below Arrestees the Poverty Level Variable (n = 196) (n = 312) Gender Male 35 66 Female 65 34 Race African American 65 65 White 27 21 Hispanic 8 14 Other -- -- Education No terminal degree 55 49 High school diploma 31 36 GED 11 12 In high school 3 3 Primary charge Miscellaneous 29 22 Drug or alcohol 28 26 Property 18 27 Personal 25 25 Mean age (in years) 31.9 27.8 % Non-Welfare-Receiving Arrestees Living above the Poverty Level Variable (n = 354) Gender Male 70 Female 30 Race African American 57 White 30 Hispanic 11 Other 2 Education No terminal degree 32 High school diploma 50 GED 15 In high school 3 Primary charge Miscellaneous 30 Drug or alcohol 26 Property 22 Personal 22 Mean age (in years) 29.5 -- = not available. Table 2. Drug-Positive Rates for Welfare-Receiving Arrestees and Non-Welfare-Receiving Arrestees (N = 862) Non-Welfare-Receiving Welfare-Receiving Arrestees Living below Arrestees the Poverty Line (n= 196) (n= 312) Drug n % n % Cocaine 94 48 142 46 Marijuana 53 27 121 39 Opiates 29 15 29 9 Benzodiazepines 26 13 27 9 Non-Welfare-Receiving Arrestees Living above the Poverty Line (n= 354) Drug n % Cocaine 139 39 Marijuana 113 32 Opiates 53 15 Benzodiazepines 38 11 NOTES: [chi square] significant at the p < .01 level. Numbers do not add to total because some subjects tested positive for more than one drug. Table 3. Drug-Positive Rates for Welfare-Receiving and Non-Welfare-Receiving Arrestees, by Gender (N = 862) Welfare-Receiving Arrestees Male Female (n = 69) (n = 127) Drug n % n % Cocaine 21 30 * 73 58 Marijuana 25 36 ** 28 22 ** Opiates 8 12 21 17 Benzodiazepines 9 13 17 13 Non-Welfare-Receiving Arrestees Living below the Poverty Level Male Female (n = 205) (n = 107) Drug n % n % Cocaine 73 36 * 69 65 * Marijuana 95 46 * 26 24 * Opiates 17 8 12 11 Benzodiazepines 16 8 11 10 Non-Welfare-Receiving Arrestees Living above the Poverty Level Male Female (n = 249) (n = 105) Drug n % n % Cocaine 84 34 * 55 52 * Marijuana 96 39 * 17 16 * Opiates 32 13 21 20 Benzodiazepines 22 9 16 15 NOTES: * [chi square] significant at the p<.001 level. ** [chi square] significant at the p<.01 level. Numbers do not add to total because some subjects tested positive for more than one drug.
Accepted January 14, 2002
Bassuk, E. L., Buckner, J. C., Perloff, J. N., & Bassuk, S. S. (1998). Prevalence of mental health and substance use disorders among homeless and low-income housed mothers. American Journal of Psychiatry, 155, 1561-1564.
Danziger, S., Corcoran, M., Danziger, S., Heflin, C., Kalil, A., Levine, J., Rosen, D., Seefeldt, K., Siefert, K., & Tolman, R. (1999). Barriers to the employment of welfare recipients. Ann Arbor, MI: Poverty Research and Training Center.
Grant, B. F., & Dawson, D.A. (1996). Alcohol and drug use, abuse, and dependence among welfare recipients. American Journal of Public Health, 86, 1450-1454.
Legal Action Center. (1997). Making welfare reform work: Tools for confronting alcohol and drug problems among welfare recipients. Washington, DC: Author.
Salomon, A., Bassuk, S. S., & Brooks, M. G. (1996). Patterns of welfare use among poor and homeless women. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 66, 510-525.
Sisco, C. B., & Pearson, C. L. (1994). Prevalence of alcoholism and drug abuse among female AFDC recipients. Health & Social Work, 19, 75-77.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2000). 2000 Federal poverty guidelines for the 48 contiguous states and the District of Columbia. Federal Register, 65(3), 7555-7557.
Weisner, C. M., & Schmidt, L.A. (1993). Alcohol and drug problems among diverse health and social service populations. American Journal of Public Health, 83, 824-829.
Yacoubian, G. (2000). Assessing ADAM's domain: Past, present, and future. Contemporary Drug Problems, 27, 121-135.
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
George S. Yacoubian, Jr., PhD, is director of research, McFarland and Associates, Inc., 8601 Georgia Avenue, Suite 601, Silver Spring, MD 20910; e-mail: email@example.com. Blake J. Urbach, has a master's degree from Department of Criminal Justice and Legal Studies at the University of Central Florida.
|Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback|
|Author:||Yacoubian, George S., Jr.; Urbach, Blake J.|
|Publication:||Health and Social Work|
|Date:||Aug 1, 2002|
|Previous Article:||The Xchange Point: a drop-in center for African American active Injection Drug Users. (Practice Forum).|
|Next Article:||Defining substance abusers using a prism: what you see is what you get. (Practice Forum).|