Updated: October 30, 2019

Life Insurance for Drug Users

Drug users often need specialist advice when it comes to taking out life insurance. Find out how to get the right help in our guide

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Pete Mugleston

Author: Pete Mugleston - Mortgage Expert

Updated: October 30, 2019

Although it’s not a question we get asked a lot, it stands to reason that some people will want to know the stance insurers take on life insurance and drug use, and whether drug screening is part of the application process.

In the UK, most insurance companies require you to undertake a medical exam before they agree to authorise your life insurance policy, which is likely to test for drug use, both legal and illegal, amongst other things.

Your eligibility will be determined by a number of factors, which we explain in this article:

Why do life insurance companies drug test?

Insurers are interested in drug use because this is a key factor which will affect the cost of your monthly premiums, and whether they’re willing to provide you with cover at all.

When you apply for life insurance, some providers ask whether or not you’re currently (or have a history of) using drugs. If they don’t ask the question, you may be subject to a medical examination, which will alert them to current or past drug usage.

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Can I be denied life insurance because of drug use?

Many insurers will decline a life insurance application if you’re an active drug user, and some will decline even if the usage was a number of years ago.

Others are happy to provide cover if you’re currently using, or have done so in the past, but in many cases, you can expect to pay higher monthly premiums than that of a non-user, depending on how long ago it was.

You can usually expect an exclusion to be applied if the cause of your death was due to drug use, or they were in your system at the time of your death.

Of course, different rules usually apply for legal versus non-illegal drug use: it all comes down to the type, extent of usage, how recently you used, as well as insurers’ individual eligibility requirements.

Want to find out more? Get in touch and we’ll refer you to one of the specialists we work with who can discuss your situation with you in more detail.

How do life insurance medical exams test for drugs?

Depending on the amount and/or level of life insurance you take out, many providers will request that you undertake an examination, and ask your GP to provide them with records of your medical history.

A medical exam typically takes around 20 minutes, and involves checking your height, weight and blood pressure. You will also be asked to give a blood and / or urine sample.

Blood and urine drug tests

During your physical, blood or urine samples will be tested for a number of different drugs, both prescription and illegal: this is how insurance companies identify what substances(s) (if any) have been used recently.

Some of the narcotics they screen for include (but are not limited to) amphetamine, barbiturates, benzodiazepines, cocaine, marijuana, methadone, methamphetamine, nicotine, opiates and phencyclidine (PCP).

Taking a urine sample tends to be the preferred method of testing, because substances are present for longer than they are in your blood. For example, cocaine can be detected for 3 – 4 days in urine, but only 1 – 2 days in blood.

However, many substances will stay in your system for weeks or even months after use, so just because you stop using them in the days leading up to your life insurance drug test, doesn’t mean they won’t be picked up on.

Hair samples, for example, can still detect traces of drugs used even 6 months ago.

Saliva drug tests

While less popular than blood or urine tests, saliva tests may also be used to test for alcohol, marijuana, cocaine, amphetamines, and methamphetamines. They can be useful for more recent drug use detection.

Recreational drugs versus prescription drug use

Insurers are usually more lenient in authorising life insurance applications if you are on prescription drugs rather than if you’re taking illegal substances for recreational purposes.

Even so, any type of prescription medication should be declared to your insurer. Depending on your situation they may go on to request further information from your GP before they reach a decision.

It all depends on the circumstances; if the prescription drugs suggest that you’re suffering from serious physical or mental health issues, this can result in higher life insurance premiums or insurers refusing to cover you.

Whether you’re using drugs illegally or have medication prescribed by a doctor, if you neglect to declare anything on your application this could void your policy when it comes to payout time.

Marijuana and life insurance

Weed, cannabis or marijuana – whatever you want to call it, life insurance applications from weed smokers are generally more common than from other harder drug users, so to speak.

Some insurers are fairly lenient when it comes to cannabis use and recognise that it seldom damages the user’s health any more than smoking cigarettes, so policies may be offered on a standard smoker’s terms.

And, since it has been legalised for medicinal purposes in the UK, insurers maybe even more tolerant. But again, this all depends on your individual situation, and of course, the provider’s stance on drug use.

For more information make an enquiry; every insurance provider will have different policies around weed, so if you’re a smoker, whole-of-market access means the brokers we work with can find you the most competitive and suitable deal for your needs.

Do life insurance companies test for weed in the medical exam?

Yes, as mentioned above, a medical exam will screen for a number of different drugs, including marijuana.

Urine tests can detect how much tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is in your system, which means insurers will know whether your usage is prescription-based or recreational, as different levels of THC are present in each.

Anabolic steroid usage and life insurance

Although steroids don’t spring to mind when you think about “illegal substances”, if you’re taking any drug that has not been prescribed for you by your GP, there could be implications when applying for life insurance.

It’s very unlikely that you’ll be approved for life cover if you’re currently taking illegal steroids and the provider finds out – especially if they’re injected. But if you’ve been off the drugs for a number of years it may not have any impact on your application at all – just make sure to declare your historic usage.

Can I get life insurance if I’m a drug addict?

Anyone who is currently abusing an illegal substance (perhaps with the exception of marijuana) is unlikely to be approved for life insurance.

Insurers view addicts as extremely high risk, and are therefore unwilling to provide life cover due to the impact they can have on your both your physical and mental health –  especially over a prolonged period.

Is life insurance for ex-drug addicts available?

Yes, it is possible to get life insurance if you’ve abused drugs in the past but have since kicked the habit.

Typically, insurers will want you to have been clean of drugs for a minimum of two years. Even then, past usage may still affect the premiums you pay and/or exclusions applied, especially if it’s within the last five years.

That being said, every insurer has their own guidelines when assessing applications, so your best chance of getting cover at a competitive rate is to apply through an independent broker who has access to insurance providers across the entire market. Contact us for a free quote.

Will my policy cover a drug overdose?

Generally speaking, life insurance policies will void any payout if you die due to a drug overdose or as a result of your drug habit- but there may be some exceptions.

There are several factors that insurers may consider before coming to a decision:

  • Whether the policyholder declared the drug use on their application.
  • The type of drug that was found in the individual’s system.
  • Whether the overdose was intentional or an accident.

Again, it’s all circumstantial. In a similar vein, if you pass away as a result of alcohol abuse, most life insurance policies will not payout.

When you apply for life insurance, you’re doing so to ensure that your loved ones are looked after financially when you pass away.

As mentioned, insurers don’t tend to payout if you die due to drug abuse. What’s more, if you neglect to declare even historic drug use on your initial application this could void your cover so your beneficiaries receive no payout.

Speak to an expert

Get in touch for a free, no obligation chat and we’ll match you with one of the independent financial advisors we work with.

They will be able to offer you confidential and clear information about arranging life cover if you use drugs. With access to insurance companies across the UK, they will be able to help you find an insurer with a policy to suit you.

Make an enquiry or call 0808 189 0463 to get started.

Ask a quick question

We can help! We know everyone's circumstances are different, that's why we work with brokers who are experts in higher-risk life insurance. Ask us a question and we'll get the best expert to help.

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Pete Mugleston

Pete Mugleston

Mortgage Expert

About the author

Pete, an expert in all things mortgages, cut his teeth right in the middle of the credit crunch. With plenty of people needing help and few mortgage providers lending, Pete found great success in going the extra mile to find mortgages for people whom many others considered lost causes. The experience he gained, coupled with his love of helping people reach their goals, led him to establish Online Mortgage Advisor, with one clear vision – to help as many customers as possible get the right advice, regardless of need or background.

Pete’s presence in the industry as the ‘go-to’ for specialist finance continues to grow, and he is regularly cited in and writes for both local and national press, as well as trade publications, with a regular column in Mortgage Introducer and being the exclusive mortgage expert for LOVEMoney. Pete also writes for OMA of course!

FCA Disclaimer

*Based on our research, the content contained in this article is accurate as of the most recent time of writing. Lender criteria and policies change regularly so speak to one of the advisors we work with to confirm the most accurate up to date information. The information on the site is not tailored advice to each individual reader, and as such does not constitute financial advice. All advisors working with us are fully qualified to provide mortgage advice and work only for firms that are authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. They will offer any advice specific to you and your needs.

Some types of buy to let mortgages are not regulated by the FCA. Think carefully before securing other debts against your home. As a mortgage is secured against your home, it may be repossessed if you do not keep up with repayments on your mortgage. Equity released from your home will also be secured against it.

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