In a recent study, more than 61 million U.S. adults were classified as binge drinkers and over 17 million as heavy drinkers based on their alcohol consumption over the last 30 days. 
But having an alcohol addiction can make it more difficult for you to buy life insurance for up to a decade after your final drink.
Many insurance companies decline coverage or significantly increase premiums for recovering alcoholics during their first 10 years of sobriety because of the medical conditions associated with excessive alcohol use.
Here’s how recovering alcoholics can secure a life insurance policy to protect their loved ones.
How much does life insurance cost for recovering alcoholics?
The cost of life insurance is calculated by how risky you are to insure. If you have more health conditions or a riskier lifestyle, you’ll receive a less favorable health classification and higher premiums.
Recovering alcoholics will get Substandard rates or be declined coverage after three or four years of sobriety. They can get Standard rates after five to seven years or more, according to Policygenius data.
Substandard rates — also called table ratings — are typically reserved for people with serious health conditions or complex medical histories. Standard rates are typically reserved for people with a moderate or well-controlled health condition, or people who are several years out from a more serious health incident.
Here’s how much a 35-year-old might pay monthly for a $500,000, 20-year policy in different health classifications:
Table 8 (Substandard)
To be considered for Preferred rates, you need to be sober for 10 years or more. You may be considered for a better insurance classification if you’ve sought treatment for your alcohol abuse, such as counseling or entering a rehab facility.
Why does alcohol use affect life insurance rates?
Alcohol use makes you a riskier life insurance applicant because excessive drinking increases the chances you’ll injure yourself or others while intoxicated. It can also cause serious health issues, including: 
Weakened immune system
The CDC defines excessive drinking as binge drinking or heavy drinking:
Binge drinking: Four drinks (women) or five drinks (men) during a single occasion
Heavy drinking: Eight drinks (women) or 15 drinks (men) during a single occasion
If you have a recent DUI/DWI conviction on your motor vehicle report, it’ll be even harder to find life insurance coverage. Most providers won’t offer you a policy until at least five years after your conviction.
How do life insurance companies test for alcohol use?
If you have a few drinks per day, your insurer probably won’t be concerned about your alcohol consumption. Life insurance companies want to know if your drinking could cause health issues or dangerous behaviors.
During the underwriting process, you usually take a medical exam with routine blood and urine testing for substance abuse. You also share past medical records.
Blood tests will identify carbohydrate-deficient transferrin (%dCDT),  a common sign of heavy alcohol consumption — defined as about five drinks per day in this test — in the previous two weeks.
You’ll also be asked questions about whether you drink or use any other substances and how often. Other questions could include:
If you are not currently a drinker, when was the last time you consumed alcohol?
Do you have any history of excessive drinking?
Have you ever received alcohol-related counseling?
Have you participated in inpatient or outpatient alcohol treatment?
Have you been sober since your last treatment?
Have you ever had a DUI/DWI?
Answer these questions honestly. If you lie, your application could be declined due to insurance fraud and you may have trouble buying coverage in the future.
How can recovering alcoholics get life insurance?
If you currently have an alcohol addiction, you should seek treatment in addition to buying life insurance. Programs like Alcoholics Anonymous can provide support that will be valuable for your recovery.
If you’re a recovering alcoholic, you’ll face some hurdles when buying a life insurance policy, like higher premiums and longer application processing to ensure a thorough medical history review.
You’re not completely out of options if you don’t qualify for a traditional policy yet:
Group life insurance: Many employers offer subsidized life insurance to employees that doesn’t require any health information for approval. Coverage may be limited and you’ll lose the policy if you change jobs.
Final expense insurance: If you don’t qualify for traditional life insurance, final expense policies offer coverage up to $40,000 for those age 45 and older, but at high premiums.
Reapply in the future: Insurers are more likely to consider you for their best rates after you’ve been sober for 10 or more years. You can shop for a new policy or ask for a rate reconsideration after you hit this milestone.
Buying life insurance for alcoholics can be more involved than the process for someone with no addiction history, but it’s not impossible.
It helps to know what challenges you might face. A Policygenius agent can help you find the best policy for your family’s needs.
Other health concerns that can affect your life insurance
Certain pre-existing conditions and other health-related concerns can affect your life insurance options or costs. A Policygenius expert can help you find the right policy for your needs.