In May 2017, the Australian government revealed plans to drug test welfare claimants. This politically divisive move has been the subject of significant discussion – and indeed criticism – across the Australian media. The argument has, in part, been one of cause and effect. Are drug users on welfare because they are drug users, or are they drug users because they are on welfare, because they are vulnerable, because they are at risk?
Some commentators have been at pains to point out the link between drug use and mental illness. Leading Australian mental health expert, Professor Patrick McGorry, described the plan as “an absolute disgrace,” asserting that “it fails to recognise that mental illness and drug and alcohol problems nearly always coexist, they’re a health problem and not a lifestyle choice.”