Substance Abuse and Women on Welfare | CASAColumbia

Substance Abuse and Women on Welfare

Substance Abuse and Women on Welfare

Published: June 1994

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Background

This report examined the extent of substance abuse among the people in the Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) population and its implications for welfare reform.

Methods

These findings are based on a review of the literature, an examination of government data on AFDC and an analysis of data from the National Household Survey on Drug Abuse.

Results

This report found that overall, 28% of adults receiving AFDC, and 37% of women ages 18 to 24 receiving AFDC, were either abusing or addicted to drugs and/or alcohol. This was more than the 20% of substance-abusing or addicted people in a comparable age group not receiving public assistance. Women who received AFDC were nearly twice as likely to have abused or have been addicted to alcohol and/or illicit drugs as women who had not received AFDC (27% vs 14%).

Mothers who received AFDC were 3 times more likely to have abused or have been addicted to alcohol and/or drugs than mothers who had not received AFDC (27% vs 9%). The substance abuse problem in AFDC was not confined to alcohol or one type of drug. Women who received AFDC were almost twice as likely to have used cigarettes, alcohol, marijuana or cocaine as women who were not on public assistance.

At least 1.3 million adult welfare recipients abused or were addicted to drugs and/or alcohol. For some AFDC recipients, dependency on drugs or alcohol may have led to job loss and, ultimately, to welfare dependence. For others, drug and alcohol abuse may have made moving from welfare dependency to self-sufficiency virtually impossible.

Recommendations

The report recommends that welfare agencies identify substance abuse as one of the most serious barriers to becoming a part of the workforce. Job training, literacy skills and health care have all been identified as important elements in making the transition to self-sufficiency, but in order to reduce welfare dependence substantially, substance abuse treatment, including aftercare, must be a critical element of any meaningful welfare reform plan. Without this, it would be impossible to train the 1.3 million recipients with drug or alcohol problems so that they can obtain and hold jobs.

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