Do Life Insurance Companies Test for Drugs?

Life insurance companies need to make sure that they screen applicants so they can measure how risky each person is. Increased risk usually means that companies will charge higher premiums for life insurance policies. A positive drug test, however, could mean that the insurance company denies your application.
By Matthew T
Updated Mar 31, 2022
do life insurance companies test for drugs
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Life insurance companies need to make sure that they screen applicants so they can measure how risky each person is. Increased risk usually means that companies will charge higher premiums for life insurance policies. A positive drug test, however, could mean that the insurance company denies your application.

Insurance providers set their own standards, so testing positive for drugs doesn’t necessarily mean that you can’t get a life insurance policy. Still, it’s worth taking a closer look at the industry’s standards before you submit to a blood or urine test.

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Your Life Insurance Policy and Drug Test

Life insurance companies will ask you to complete a survey before they give you a premium quote. Most surveys ask about past and current drug use.

Using drugs in the past doesn’t necessarily affect your policy or premium. It's important to answer the question accurately.

Current drug use is more likely to influence your policy’s premium. You might as well tell the truth, though. No matter how you respond, the company will likely ask you to provide a blood sample. Once they have your blood, they can test it for illicit substances.

Why should you answer the survey and put yourself at risk? Because lying also puts you at risk. If you say that you don’t use drugs, but your blood test comes back positive for a substance, then the company will almost certainly deny you coverage.

You should also provide truthful information so the insurer can get an accurate view of your health. If you use a drug that increases your blood pressure, then the insurance company needs to know about that situation. Otherwise, the company will assume that you have high blood pressure. By admitting that you have used a drug, you at least provide an explanation for your condition. You may even find that you can lower your blood pressure by abstaining. In that case, the company may reduce your premium after a future medical exam.

The Drugs Life Insurance Companies Look for During Blood Tests

Life insurance companies can check for any number of legal and illegal drugs when they perform blood tests. Some drugs are more likely to get your application rejected than others. You can probably still get a policy when you test positive for:

  • Nicotine

  • THC – the active ingredient in cannabis

The presence of either drug will mean that you pay a higher premium. In most cases, though, the insurance company will not reject your application. It may, however, charge such a high price that you’re unwilling to buy the policy.

Drugs that will likely result in a policy denial include:

  • Amphetamines like Adderall, Dexedrine, and Ritalin

  • Barbiturates like Seconal, Nembutal, and Amytal

  • Benzodiazepines like Ativan, Xanax, and Valium

  • Cocaine

  • Methadone

  • Methamphetamine

  • Opiates like heroin, oxycodone, and fentanyl

  • PCP

What if You Have a Prescription?

Many of the drugs that insurance companies look for have valid medical purposes. You may take Adderall for ADHD, or Xanax for an anxiety disorder. 

If you have a prescription for the drug that appears in your blood test, then the insurance company shouldn’t deny you coverage or charge a higher premium. Some companies will, but it’s not a common practice.

Marijuana stands out as an exception. Even though many states let doctors prescribe cannabis to treat a variety of symptoms from depression to chronic pain, the federal government does not recognize it as a medical substance. Since it doesn’t have federal approval, life insurance companies don’t always acknowledge prescriptions. That doesn’t mean all companies will charge considerably higher premiums, though. If you have a cannabis prescription, ask your doctor if they know of any insurance providers that accept marijuana users.

The Amount and Frequency of Drug Use Often Matters

When it comes to nicotine and cannabis, a positive drug test may not matter as much as you think. The amount of the drug in your blood sample will help the insurance company decide how risky you are as a policyholder. A trace amount of THC may not matter at all, especially if you admitted on your application that you use marijuana once or twice a year. Similarly, a small amount of nicotine doesn’t affect your premium as much as the amount found in blood samples from heavy smokers.

If the insurer can’t determine the amount and frequency of your drug use, it may contact you to answer additional questions. The survey should include these questions, but getting some extra information can help the insurer evaluate your situation.

Ideally, your drug test shouldn’t come back positive for any drugs. The life insurance company wants to sell you a policy, though. That’s one of the ways that it makes money. As long as you don’t represent a significant risk, the company will usually offer you a policy at a slightly higher price.

What Happens if You Fail the Drug Test?

Your health will change throughout your life. Insurance companies know that you will have ups and downs over the years. Testing positive for drugs now, therefore, doesn’t mean that you can’t get a policy in the future.

If you fail a drug test and an insurance provider rejects your application, you will probably have to wait six months to a year before you can reapply. During those months, you can focus on transitioning to a healthier lifestyle that doesn’t involve drug use. You can also spend that time getting in better shape, losing weight, and eating healthy foods. The better results you get from your medical exam, the less money you will spend on your life insurance premium.

Don’t assume that failing one drug test means that you can never get a policy. Ask the life insurance companies about their policies to learn more about when you can reapply. If you abstain, you could get a policy that will provide for your beneficiaries within a few months.

Other Parts of Your Life Insurance Medical Exam

A doctor or other healthcare professional from the insurance company will complete a medical exam to determine your health and identify any issues, including drug use. Some companies send people to your home to perform the test. Others will have you come to an office where they administer their medical exams.

When you arrive, expect to provide your driver’s license or a similar form of identification. The company needs to make sure that it is examining the correct person.

The examiner will then measure your weight, height, blood pressure, and weight. They may also test the amount of oxygen in your blood. None of these tests should include anything painful. Even blood oxygen levels are measured without taking a blood sample.

You will, however, need to provide urine and blood samples. Try to drink plenty of water before the exam so you can provide the urine sample quickly. The examiner only needs a few small vials of blood, so collecting it shouldn’t take more than a couple of minutes. If needles make you anxious, try to distract yourself by playing a game on your phone, chatting with the examiner, or looking away from your arm.

In rare cases, the insurer will want you to take an EKG. This usually only applies to seniors, though. If you’re under 65, you probably won’t need to get an EKG.

Preparing for Your Life Insurance Drug Test and Medical Exam

When you know that you want to purchase life insurance, try to use the opportunity to improve your health. Making positive lifestyle changes could lower your premium and improve your overall health.

Some people try to trick insurers by abstaining from drugs for a short period. Some people also try to “flush” their systems before taking drug tests.

Abstaining for a short time might give you a lower premium. Consider that it can take up to 10 days for nicotine and other drugs from tobacco to leave your system. Drug tests can detect THC in your blood for up to 30 days since your last use. The amount of time that THC stays in your system depends on how often you use cannabis, though. A frequent user will test positive for a much longer period than someone who only uses once or twice a year.

Abstaining to pay a lower premium may sound like a good idea, but it could lead to future problems. Let’s say you die in an accident that’s connected to substance use. The insurance company could use the presence of drugs in your system to deny your family benefits. It makes more sense to either give the insurer an accurate portrayal of your health or commit to a long-term lifestyle change that doesn’t include using drugs.

You don’t want to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars on life insurance that doesn’t benefit your loved ones. That’s nothing but a waste of money.

Getting Ready for Your Life Insurance Medical Exam

Your life insurance provider will want a blood sample that helps it identify any health conditions that you have. You should fast for at least 10 hours before the exam. Fasting helps ensure that tests provide accurate results about your:

  • Blood sugar.

  • HDL (good) cholesterol.

  • LDL (bad) cholesterol.

  • Triglycerides.

Many insurance companies only look that closely at your blood test results. However, those who want more information about your health may want tests that show how well your kidneys work, whether you have enough B12 and iron in your body, and your electrolyte balance.

If your medical exam happens in the morning, then most people won’t have a problem fasting before their tests. Simply wait to have breakfast a little later than usual.

If you have to schedule your exam later in the day, though, you face a few challenges. Make sure you:

  • Take your medications as prescribed by your doctor.

  • Drink plenty of water to reduce feelings of hunger and stay hydrated.

  • Know what time you need to stop eating so you can provide a reliable urine and blood sample.

People with diabetes and other blood sugar issues may want to contact the insurance company for advice about staying healthy during the day without tainting their samples. The company may be able to move your appointment to a time that meets your health needs better.

Refusing to Take a Drug Test Means You Cannot Get a Policy

You can refuse to take a drug test, but the insurance company will reject your application. What can you expect? If you’re not willing to give the insurer the information it needs to determine your level of risk, then it will not let you purchase a policy. The company has no choice but to reject your request.

The company may choose to accept your application and drug test in the future. Then again, it has the right to refuse applications on the grounds that you would not cooperate with earlier tests. It’s usually best to provide the requested samples and learn from the consequences.

Find an Affordable Life Insurance Policy That Matches Your Needs

Some life insurance companies take positive drug tests more seriously than others do. For example, some individual insurance plans may have contestability clauses relating to drug overdoses and can deny your beneficiaries a death benefit. However, it’s important to remember that the presence of some drugs will automatically disqualify you. No life insurance company will give you a policy after finding cocaine in your system. It’s too risky for them to accept you as a policyholder. However, a drug test that’s positive for nicotine or cannabis doesn’t make it impossible for you to get a policy.

It pays to compare premiums from several companies before you accept a policy. You might discover that two companies offering the same benefits charge different prices. Cheaper, of course, isn’t always better. You should learn about the company’s reputation to make sure it will honor your policy and give you excellent customer service. Often, though, comparing offers from several insurance providers makes it easier for you to find an affordable policy that matches your needs.

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