When you apply for life insurance, you’ll be asked questions about your health and lifestyle, including current and past alcohol and drug use. If you don't have history of substance abuse and use alcohol or marijuana recreationally, you’ll be able to get covered.
But if you’ve abused alcohol or drugs in the past, you may not qualify for most policies.
For most life insurance companies, you’ll need to be drug-free or out of rehab for several years before you’ll be offered coverage.
If you're currently using illicit drugs, you’ll be denied standard term life and permanent life insurance coverage. Instead, you may be able to get final expense insurance or life insurance offered through your employer.
Casual drinkers and marijuana smokers generally have few issues getting insured.
Current alcohol abuse or illicit drug use will result in an automatic decline.
Recovering substance users may need to demonstrate sobriety for five to 10 years or more to receive coverage.
How does substance use impact life insurance?
During the life insurance underwriting process, the insurer evaluates you for health and lifestyle risks in order to set your premiums. The higher your risk, the higher your rates will be. If you’re considered too high risk, you may be denied life insurance.
Being a casual substance user — an occasional marijuana smoker, for example — won’t keep you from getting life insurance.
But due to the potential for relapse and associated health conditions, a documented history of drug or alcohol abuse makes it more difficult to get covered. You could face coverage denials, especially within your first five years of recovery.
Can you still buy life insurance if you’ve used drugs?
Whether you’ll pay more for coverage or be denied life insurance because of drug use depends on your personal history and the substance involved.
Here are questions your underwriter might ask about past drug use:
What types of drugs have you used?
What forms of it did you administer?
How much did you use?
How long did you do drugs?
If you went to rehab, how long were you there? How many times did you have to go?
Were you ever hospitalized because of your addiction?
Did you relapse? If so, how many times?
Do you now have medical issues because of your drug use?
Are you employed?
Do you have a place to stay?
Are you financially stable?
Are you in a healthy relationship and/or surrounded by healthy, supportive friends and family?
How long have you been sober?
Though the questions may feel personal, it’s important to be completely honest with your insurance provider. Your answers help your insurer accurately evaluate your application.
Plus, it’s considered fraud to deliberately withhold information from your insurer.
Do you need to be honest about your drug use when buying life insurance?
You should never conceal substance use from your insurance company. It’s almost impossible to get away with hiding that information — the underwriting process typically includes routine blood and urine testing and a review of your medical records.
If you’re caught intentionally withholding information, it qualifies as insurance fraud. You could lose your policy and your loved ones won’t receive your life insurance proceeds.
If you’re concerned that the life insurance company is going to report your drug use to the police or that they'll tell your employer, rest assured that your medical information is protected by HIPAA. That means the life insurance company can’t share that information without your permission.
How do life insurance companies evaluate different substance users?
Which drug you have a history with will impact how your provider weighs your risk as well. Generally the harder the substance, the less leniency you’ll receive from your insurer.
Every application is different, so it’s best to work with an independent insurance broker to find the right company if you have a drug history.
If you’re a casual drinker, you shouldn’t have a problem finding life insurance. But if you experienced addition, most life insurance providers will decline your coverage until you’re at least three years sober.
Even after three years, you’ll still receive a Substandard health classification, which will result in much higher premiums. Substandard health classifications are typically reserved for people who have experienced significant health risks.
To receive the most affordable rates, you’ll need to stay sober for five to 10 years or more.
→ Learn more about how alcohol abuse affects life insurance
Tobacco users pay two to three times more for life insurance coverage than non-smokers because of the associated health risks. You’ll be classified as a smoker for using:
Tobacco users need to be nicotine-free for at least one to three years in order to qualify for non-smoker life insurance rates.
→ Learn more about the best life insurance companies for tobacco users
Each insurance company has its own guidelines when it comes to marijuana. Some insurers offer competitive rates to frequent smokers, while others only offer the best rates to occasional users.
Medical marijuana users will generally be evaluated based on the health condition in question first. For instance, medical marijuana used to treat cancer will have a bigger impact than medical marijuana used to treat mild anxiety.
→ Learn more about finding the best life insurance company for marijuana use
If you’re currently using illicit drugs, you can expect an automatic denial of your life insurance application. That includes:
You’ll need to demonstrate that you’ve been drug-free for at least five years, which varies between insurers, before you can receive coverage. It will take even longer, often 10 years or more, before you’ll be considered for an insurer’s best rates.
How can drug users get life insurance coverage?
If you’re unable to qualify for a traditional term or permanent life insurance policy, you can consider one of the following options:
Group life insurance: Offered by many employers, these plans usually provide one to two times your annual salary in coverage for an affordable price, or part of a benefits package.
Guaranteed issue life insurance: This type of life insurance offers near-guaranteed acceptance, but comes with high premiums, lower coverage limits, and some age restrictions.
Simplified issue life insurance: Those with a critical illness or in assisted living may be declined and policies come with similar restrictions to guaranteed issue coverage.
Being a current or former drug user may make it harder for you to find life insurance coverage, but it’s not impossible. Depending on your personal history and the type of drug you use, you may even qualify for competitive rates with some insurers.
Working with an independent broker like Policygenius can help you compare quotes across multiple providers to find the right company for your circumstances.
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.
Frequently asked questions
How does current drug use affect life insurance?
It depends on the drug and frequency of use. Insurers show leniency toward casual drinkers and marijuana smokers, but hard drug use or alcohol abuse will cause application denials.
How does past drug use impact life insurance?
If you have a history of substance abuse you will need to be at least five years sober before providers will offer you coverage, but you will eventually qualify for traditional life insurance.
Can a life insurance claim be denied for drug use?
A life insurance claim can be denied if the policyholder was dishonest on their application, pertaining to drug use or otherwise. If death related to drug use occurred within the policy’s suicide clause period, the overdose cannot have been intentional. But aside from these circumstances, life insurance claims will pay out in most cases.