What drugs do life insurance companies test for?


Adam Cecil

Adam Cecil

Former Staff Writer

Adam Cecil is a former staff writer for Policygenius, a digital insurance brokerage trying to make sense of insurance for consumers. He is a podcast producer, writer, and video maker based in Brooklyn, NY.

Published June 16, 2016 | 3 min read

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During the life insurance medical exam, there is typically a drug test. The life insurance drug test is similar to drug tests you may have taken for your employer, and are usually administered by testing a small urine sample (some may collect blood for this test as well).

Insurers set their term life insurance rates based on the results of the medical exam. Companies typically order a full drug panel during the exam, which tests for the following drugs:

  • Amphetamine / Methamphetamine

  • Cocaine

  • Marijuana

  • Nicotine

  • Opiates

  • Phencyclidine (PCP)

  • Barbiturates

  • Benzodiazepines

  • Methadone

If you test positive for most of these drugs, your application will be automatically declined. The major exception is marijuana and nicotine. Most life insurance companies allow you to smoke or consume some marijuana, but each insurer has their own rules on how often you can consume marijuana. Most insurers operate using the "2 X rule," which allows anyone to get the best rates (preferred, non-smoking) if they consume marijuana twice per year or less. Other carriers allow you to smoke more frequently — for example, MetLife allows users to smoke up to three times per week.

Note that these frequency rules don’t mean you’ll automatically qualify for the best rates, it just means it’s possible — instead of being knocked into the smoker rates automatically, you have a chance to qualify as a non-smoker.

If you test positive for nicotine at all, you'll probably be classified as a smoker, even if it comes from the patch or another smoking cessation product.

Life insurance companies do not allow current drug abusers to purchase life insurance. If you test positive for drugs such as cocaine and heroin, it will mean an automatic decline. To guarantee that there no false positives on your test, check out our guide on how to prepare for the life insurance drug test.

If you have previously been addicted to drugs in the past and are interested in buying life insurance, it is possible. Life insurance companies require that applicants be clean for at least three years (some require longer periods) with no relapses.

Besides administering a drug test, life insurance companies will give you a form asking about your current and past drug use. If you have any past or current drug use, the life insurer will contact you with further questions about your usage. They’ll also ask you questions about your recovery and your current work and family situation.

At the end of the day, most life insurance applicants do not have to worry about the life insurance drug test or blood test. If you currently do drugs (besides marijuana), it is unlikely that you will be allowed to purchase life insurance. You may be able to purchase forms of no medical exam life insurance, such as simplified issue or guaranteed life insurance, but it can be prohibitively expensive. If you abused drugs in the past but are currently clean, you may be able to purchase life insurance. Be on the lookout for increased rates due to medical conditions caused by your past drug abuse.