Key Researchers

  • Over different years, in many different surveys, approximately 20 percent of TANF recipients report that they have used an illicit drug at least once in the past year.

    The National Household Survey of Drug Abuse (NHSDA), and its successor, the National Survey of Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) provide the best available nationally-representative data regarding the self-reported prevalence of substance use. Within the 2007 wave of NSDUH, we find that 20 percent of women TANF recipients age 18-49 reported recent illicit drug use. In contrast, 10.3 percent of women with dependent children who did not receive TANF reported recent illicit drug use. These rates have proved relatively stable over time, and remain similar to those obtained using earlier waves of NSDUH/NSDHA data, covering periods before and after the 1996 reforms (Jayakody et al., 2000).

    Similar results were obtained in the Women’s Employment Study (WES), a longitudinal survey of current and former TANF recipients in one Michigan urban county. At the Fall 1999 WES survey wave, 22 percent of continuing TANF recipients and 16.6 percent of former TANF recipients reported that they had used an illicit substance at least once during the previous year (Metsch and Pollack, 2005), (Pollack et al., 2002). Approximately half of reported illicit substance use reflected the exclusive use of marijuana, with the remainder reflecting use of some other illicit substance (Jayakody et al., 2000). Approximately one out of five of WES respondents reported that they had used an illicit substance other than marijuana at least once over their lifetime (Phinney et al., forthcoming).



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