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Applying for life insurance is one of the best financial decisions you can make for your estate. You’ll protect your loved ones and maybe even leave behind a legacy in your name.

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Before you get approved for life insurance, though, you must pass a series of tests, of which the medical test is one of the largest. While it’s not a full medical exam like you’d get at the doctor, it’s a panel of tests that determines your risk for certain major illnesses, and it checks for drug use.

Most people don’t realize that drug use may affect their ability to secure life insurance. It may not be an automatic reason to decline your application, but it will be used during the underwriting, and depending on how bad the use is, it could hurt your chances of approval.

Here’s everything you must know.

What do Life Insurance Drug Tests Check?

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Your lifestyle plays an important role in whether life insurance companies approve you for insurance. If drug use is a part of your lifestyle, it could prevent you from getting insurance, except for marijuana, but we’ll talk about that more below.

Life insurance companies do both urine and blood tests. They test for:

  • Blood tests – Blood tests provide the most accurate results. Most life insurance companies make this a part of the medical exam, but it varies by company. The blood test checks other factors, too, such as liver function and cardiovascular function. Blood tests show drug use from the last 6 months.
  • Urine tests – Urine tests aren’t as accurate, and they don’t catch every drug, but they usually catch cocaine, nicotine, marijuana, opioids, and amphetamines, among others. Urine tests are simple and provide immediate results. They usually show drug use within the last 4 to 6 weeks.

Overall, insurance companies look for any of the following drug use:

  • Cocaine
  • Opiates
  • Benzos
  • Barbiturates
  • Methadone
  • Marijuana
  • Prescription drugs
  • Tobacco

Why is Drug Testing Important for Life Insurance?

Drug tests help insurance companies determine your risk level. If you use drugs, you have a higher risk of premature death than a non-drug user.

Now, what if you have a prescription? Does it affect your chances of life insurance approval?

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Most prescription drugs don’t affect your chances of approval, but insurance companies look at the big picture. Why do you have the prescription? What is the issue it’s trying to fix, and does it affect your lifespan?

There is an exception to the rule.


Even if you live in a state that allows marijuana use and you have a doctor’s prescription, an insurance company might not accept it as such. Because it’s not federally accepted as medically necessary, life insurance companies don’t have to allow it.

Can an Insurance Company Decline you for Drug Use?

Every life insurance company has different standards. Most, if not all, will decline you if you currently use drugs. If you have a history of drug you use, you may be approved if you can prove you no longer use.

Usually, that means users should have discontinued for at least 2 years before the application date.

Underwriters look for:

  1. The frequency of use
  2. The severity of your addiction and/or use
  3. The reason you took the drugs (if medically necessary or recreational)
  4. Signs of dependence
  5. Side effects of withdrawal
  6. Length of time of use
  7. Length of time since last use
  8. Help received to stop use

What if you Don’t Want to Take a Drug Test?

It’s your right not to take a drug test, but it’s also the insurance company’s right to deny your application. They have every right to require the test before they provide you with a policy. They need a full picture of what risks you bring to the table, and if you have a drug addiction, they may not want to insure you.

How to Pass the Drug Test

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If you’ve used drugs, you may wonder if it’s possible to pass the drug test. It might be, but it’s always important to be truthful with your life insurance provider. Because they will drug test you with blood and urine in most cases, they’ll find out if there’s a history of drug use. If you don’t provide full disclosure, they may accuse you of insurance fraud.

So how do you pass the test? Here are a few tips:

  • Exercise 30 minutes a day 5 days a week
  • Maintain a healthy diet and avoid processed and sugary foods
  • Drink a lot of water

These steps alone won’t make you pass the drug test, but if you’ve quit recently and combined your new lifestyle with these healthy steps, you’ll improve your overall health condition and increase your chances of approval.

Like we said before, always be honest with the insurer, though. Besides NEVER LYING, don’t do the following either:

  • Use drugs thinking you’ll be able to hide it
  • Avoid poppy seeds
  • Don’t consume protein bars
  • Avoid Vitamin B12 supplements
  • Avoid cold medications
  • Avoid tonic water and tea leaves

Do all Life Insurance Companies Drug Test?

Most reputable life insurance companies do a drug test. While you can’t exactly ask them if they do as it’s a sign that you use drugs, know that the most common life insurance companies drug test, including:

  • USAA
  • State Farm
  • New York Life Insurance
  • Prudential
  • Nationwide
  • Northwestern
  • Primerica
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Always assume a company drug tests unless you’re applying for a guaranteed issue life insurance policy that doesn’t require a medical exam.

How Could a Guaranteed Issue Life Insurance Policy Help?

If you’ve used drugs and aren’t sure if you’ll pass the drug test, your best bet is to take out a guaranteed issue life insurance policy.

While the insurance company will ask you questions, they don’t run a medical exam. As long as there aren’t any signs or warning signals you do drugs currently, you may get approved for a guaranteed issue policy.

Because it’s ‘guaranteed’ you’ll pay higher premiums. Life insurance companies take a risk insuring you without proof of good health with medical tests, including drug tests.

The difference in premium is minimal when you’re young. If you want life insurance and don’t want to undergo the drug test, buy guaranteed life insurance when you’re young for the lowest premiums.

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Do all insurance companies drug test you for life insurance?

There isn’t a rule or law stating that life insurance companies must test you for drug use, but most do. It’s in their best interest to do so as drug users have a much lower life expectancy and often take much higher risks than non-drug users.

If nothing else, it may put you in a higher premium bracket because of the risk of premature death that drugs cause.

What do life insurance drug tests detect?

Life insurance drug tests detect just about any drug you could take. This includes prescription drugs and ‘legal’ drugs. Even if you have a medical reason for the drugs, insurance companies could use it as a reason not to approve you.

What does a life insurance medical exam consist of?

The life insurance medical exam includes a few steps, but the blood and urine tests are what check for drug use.

How can you pass life insurance drug tests?

The best way to pass life insurance drug tests is to stop taking drugs. But remember, the drug tests can go back as far as 6 months if the insurance provider takes a blood test to check for drugs.

I’ve been clean, can I get life insurance?

It would seem logical that you can get insured once you quit doing drugs, but that’s not always the case. Insurance companies usually want at least 5 years from the time you stopped using drugs to your life insurance application for reassurance you’re no longer using drugs or at risk of using them.

Bottom Line

Suppose you’re applying for life insurance count on taking a drug test. Even if you don’t take illegal drugs, consider the prescription drugs you take.

Insurance companies will test for everything and ask a lot of questions. It’s best to be upfront with the insurance agent about any drugs you take (illegal or legal) so he/she can guide you in the right direction.

You may need proof of the reason you take a specific drug or may have to provide other medical information to prove you aren’t a high risk. If you’ve used drugs before, the longer you wait from the time you quit until you apply for life insurance, the better. While you may get approved, your premiums will be higher if you apply too soon.


Meet Aaron H., a senior life insurance agent from California with 15+ years of experience. With a major in finance, excellent analytical and communication skills, and a passion for helping clients find personalized solutions, Aaron is a trusted advisor in the industry. He stays up-to-date on the latest trends and developments by attending webinars and workshops, reading industry blogs, and writing informative blog posts on this website. Aaron also has a keen understanding of SEO and online marketing, which he uses to help his clients reach a wider audience and get the coverage they need. He cherishes spending quality time with his wife, two children, and elder parents.