Life Insurance with Alcohol and Substance Abuse

Shawn Plummer, CRPC

Chartered Retirement Planning Counselor

Can I buy life insurance if I am recovering from an addiction?

Yes, recovering addicts can still purchase life insurance, but it is more difficult, and they can expect to pay higher premiums. This is because insurance policies, benefits, and rates are based on risk. Recovering addicts present a higher level of risk to the carrier. There are multiple factors that can directly impact your eligibility and pricing when you are a recovering addict.

  • In order to be eligible for a life insurance policy, you must be drug-free and sober for a minimum of two to three years.
  • Drug abuse and alcoholism can have a negative impact on someone’s health and life expectancy. This can affect family dynamics and stability.
  • Addictions can have a lot of negative consequences, both physically and mentally.

When you apply for life insurance, it is important to be truthful and accurate about your current health. This includes telling them about any relapses, overdoses, or problems with staying sober. If you are not honest or accurate in your application, the life insurance company is likely to reject your application.

Insider Tips For Getting Life Insurance

If you are struggling with alcohol or substance abuse, it can be difficult to get life insurance. Insurance companies see this as a high-risk behavior and are often unwilling to provide coverage. However, there are some ways that you can get life insurance for alcohol and substance abuse. Here are some insider tips from insurance agents.

  • If you’re currently using Suboxone, most standard insurance companies won’t accept you. You’ll need to wait three years before you can try with them again. But some other insurance companies might insure you right away (and we can help you find them).
  • If you’ve been treated for drinking too much, you usually can’t get insurance from standard companies for three years after you finish treatment, and they might charge you extra even after that. However, there are some insurance companies that are more flexible (and we know who they are).
  • Getting help through programs like AA is seen as a good thing by insurance companies.
  • You can drink alcohol and still get insurance as long as your doctor hasn’t told you to stop or cut down.
  • Having a DUI on your record won’t stop you from getting insurance.
  • Using alcohol or drugs can change your medical tests, especially those for your liver. Insurance companies will consider this when you apply.
Life Insurance For Substance Abuse

What Is Substance Abuse?

Substance abuse causes increased mortality risk due to overdoses, accidents, infections, or toxic effects on vital organs.

Substance abuse is defined by the psychiatric text “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders” (DSM-IV) as: “A maladaptive pattern of substance use leading to clinically significant impairment or distress, as manifested by two (or more) of the following, within a 12-month period:

  • Often taken in larger amounts or over a longer period than was intended.
  • A persistent desire or unsuccessful efforts to cut down or control use.
  • A great deal of time is spent in activities necessary to obtain, use, or recover from the substance’s effects.
  • Craving or a strong desire or urge to use the substance. Continued use despite having persistent or recurrent social or interpersonal problems caused or exacerbated by its effects. Important social, occupational, or recreational activities are given up or reduced because of use.
  • Continued use despite knowledge of having a persistent or recurrent physical or psychological problem is likely to have been caused or exacerbated by the substance.
  • Recurrent use, failing to fulfill major role obligations at work, school, or home.
  • Recurrent use in situations in which it is physically hazardous. Recurrent legal problems due to drug use.
  • Continued use despite social or interpersonal problems caused or exacerbated by the effects of the substance.

Abusers tend to have a drug of choice but readily switch to another drug within the same category if their preferred drug is unavailable.

For example, those addicted to alcohol easily become addicted to benzodiazepines. Therefore, when drugs such as Valium are used for detoxification from alcohol, they are given under a health professional’s guidance.

What Is Considered Substance Abuse?

Many legal and illegal drugs have abuse and addiction potential. These include:

  • Narcotics (such as codeine, morphine, heroin)
  • Cocaine
  • Amphetamines
  • Methamphetamines
  • Marijuana
  • LSD
  • Tranquilizers (such as Valium)
  • Barbiturates
  • Inhalants
  • Anabolic steroids
  • Among many others.

Mortality Risks In Substance Abuse

Mortality risks in a population of substance abusers include:

  • Deaths from natural causes such as the poisonous effects of substances and infections (hepatitis/HIV/endocarditis) from injectables.
  • Accidental deaths from overdose and trauma (motor vehicle accidents, falls, etc.).
  • Violent deaths from suicide and homicide.

Other points that increase the risk associated with substance abuse:

  • Multiple or polydrug use/abuse, especially involving illicit street drugs.
  • Substance abuse in the presence of a known psychiatric impairment.
  • Substance abuse in the presence of known interaction with the legal system, such as an adverse driving record or other arrest records.
  • Substance abuse in the presence of social (occupational, marital, familial) or behavioral problems.

Getting Life Insurance As A Recovering Drug Addict

Factors in the Decision Process

  • Age of the applicant
  • Length of sobriety
  • Treatment
  • Current blood test results
  • Participation in support groups
  • Driving record
  • Relapses
  • History of alcohol abuse
  • Medical impairments caused or related to the applicant’s drug abuse
  • Criminal history
  • Participation in aviation or avocation

Guidelines for Getting Life Insurance Coverage

  • Three years of abstinence with no relapses is required
  • If drug abuse and alcoholism are detected together, coverage could be declined

What Life Insurance Companies Look For With Alcoholism

Alcoholism is a primary, chronic disease with genetic, psycho-social, and environmental factors influencing its development and manifestations. The disease can be progressive and fatal. It is characterized by impaired control over drinking, preoccupation with the drug alcohol, alcohol use despite adverse consequences, and distortions in thinking, most notably denial.

In applicants with a history of risky alcohol habits, an increased premium (or possibly rejection, depending on severity) is necessary on their life insurance policy.

The underwriter will use medical records (especially those related to treatment for substance abuse and psychiatric illness), social profile, motor vehicle reports, laboratory results, and physical findings to assess the risk associated with excessive alcohol consumption.

Complications of alcohol excess significant to life underwriting:

  • Cardiac: Atrial fibrillation, cardiomyopathy, hypertension
  • Nervous System: Blackouts, seizures, delirium tremens (DTs), peripheral neuropathy, tremors, brain damage, psychosis, balance, and gait impairments.
  • Gastrointestinal: Fatty liver, hepatitis, cirrhosis, pancreatitis, gastrointestinal bleeding (sometimes massive) due to gastritis, varices, and esophagitis, cancer, diarrhea.
  • Bone Marrow: Abnormal blood counts, including anemia.
  • Psychiatric and Social Issues: Depression, anxiety, suicide, violent behavior, marital/occupational/familial problems, abuse of other drugs, and alcohol.
  • Miscellaneous: Aspiration pneumonia, accidents, and trauma.

Each of these symptoms may be continuous or periodic. Therefore, besides the risks associated with excess alcohol intake, the underwriter also considers favorable historical items such as:

  • Age of applicant
  • Length of sobriety
  • Current blood test results
  • Driving record
  • Relapses
  • History of any other substance abuse
  • Active participation in Alcoholics Anonymous
  • Voluntary initiation of treatment
  • A single period of treatment or hospitalization
  • Maintenance of stable family life
  • Sustained employment
  • Financial solvency
  • Good health without reports of violence or arrests

If the individual can successfully stop drinking alcohol without relapse, the general population’s mortality rate approaches after seven to ten years.

Life Insurance For Addicts

Getting Life Insurance As A Recovering Alcoholic

Factors in the Decision Process

  • Age of the applicant
  • Length of sobriety
  • Treatment
  • Current blood test results
  • Participation in support groups
  • Driving record
  • Relapses
  • History of other substance abuse
  • Medical impairments caused or related to the applicant’s alcoholism

Guidelines for Getting Life Insurance Coverage

  • Minimum of 2 years of sobriety
  • Current alcohol use after treatment typically is declined

To be considered for life insurance coverage for an alcoholic is a minimum postponement of 2 years of favorable historical items mentioned above.

In fact, after seven years of sobriety, a Preferred rating could be considered and Preferred Plus after ten years of sobriety.

This means you have to be “good and healthy” for at least two years.

Coverage may be adjusted depending on the severity of the excess, the severity of associated complications, evidence of alcohol dependence and/or withdrawal, legal problems related to alcohol such as Driving Under the Influence (DUI), abuse of other drugs, number of relapses, and current participation in a group such as Alcoholics Anonymous.

What If I’m Declined?

Even if an insurer declined your life insurance application, you could still purchase life insurance through a guaranteed issue policy.

What Is A Guaranteed Issue Policy?

A guaranteed issue policy is life insurance that does not depend on your health. This means that you will be able to get life insurance even if you have had a stroke and have been declined before. However, there are a few drawbacks that you should consider before getting this type of policy.

Many insurers that offer guaranteed issue life insurance policies have a limit on the death benefit. This amount is usually between $25,000 and $30,000, depending on your age.

If you die from natural causes, your family will have to wait for two or three years before the company will pay the full death benefit. Most companies, however, will pay a benefit equal to the total premiums paid in plus 5 to 10 percent.

Since the insurer is not sure how healthy you are, they will charge you more for your life insurance policy than someone who is healthier.

Although there are some disadvantages to guaranteed issue life insurance, it is still a better option than asking your loved ones to pay your final expenses.

Need Help Getting Life Insurance Coverage?

If you have a preexisting medical condition and want to buy life insurance, you will need help from an expert. This person can help make sure that you get coverage so that you don’t get declined.

Warning: Applying for life insurance without a medical exam can be risky. If you are declined coverage, it could be at least two years before you are able to get any life insurance.

Impaired Risk Life Insurance
Have You Been Declined Life Insurance Coverage Before?

Questions From Our Readers

Can I get life insurance if I’m a recovering alcoholic and currenty sober?

Yes, you can get life insurance as a recovering alcoholic who is currently sober. Insurers typically consider your overall health, the length of your sobriety, and any treatment or support programs you’re involved in. While your history may affect your premiums or the types of policies available, being in recovery and maintaining sobriety can positively influence your application.

Can I get life insurance if I’m prescribed Suboxone, Naltrexone, or Antabuse?

Most insurers automatically decline coverage due to the medication’s association with opioid addiction or alcoholism treatment. You might be able to get a Guaranteed Issue life insurance policy.

Shawn Plummer, CRPC

Chartered Retirement Planning Counselor

Shawn Plummer is a Chartered Retirement Planning Counselor, insurance agent, and annuity broker with over 14 years of first-hand experience with annuities and insurance. Since beginning his journey in 2009, he has been pivotal in selling and educating about annuities and insurance products. Still, he has also played an instrumental role in training financial advisors for a prestigious Fortune Global 500 insurance company, Allianz. His insights and expertise have made him a sought-after voice in the industry, leading to features in renowned publications such as Time Magazine, Bloomberg, Entrepreneur, Yahoo! Finance, MSN, SmartAsset, The Simple Dollar, U.S. News and World Report, Women’s Health Magazine, and many more. Shawn’s driving ambition? To simplify retirement planning, he ensures his clients understand their choices and secure the best insurance coverage at unbeatable rates.

The Annuity Expert is an independent online insurance agency servicing consumers across the United States. The goal is to help you take the guesswork out of retirement planning and find the best insurance coverage at the cheapest rates

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