Welfare recipients are no more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol than the general population, according to a new study.
The findings, published today in the American Journal of Public Health, contradict a Columbia University study that concluded 20 percent of mothers on welfare are alcoholics or use illegal drugs.
National Institutes of Health researchers analyzed a 1992 federal survey that questioned members of 42,862 households about drug or alcohol use and welfare status.
The proportion of welfare recipients who were heavy drinkers ranged from 6.4 to 13.8 percent, reported Bridget Grant of the agency's National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. That compared to 14.8 percent of those not on welfare who admitted to being heavy drinkers, she said.
Between 3.8 and 9.8 percent of welfare recipients used drugs, compared with 5.1 percent of people not on welfare, the study found. And 1.3 to 3.6 percent of welfare recipients were dependent on drugs, compared with 1.5 percent of people not on welfare.
The biggest rates of substance abuse were found in the Aid to Families with Dependent Children, food stamp and Women, Infants and Children welfare programs.