For some, poor decisions in their past can be a barrier to achieving their goals and desires in the future. A criminal history can affect which jobs a person can apply for and in some instances, even dictate where they can live, whilst past substance abuse can affect a person’s long term physical and mental health as well as their ability to take out a life insurance policy.
For many people who have partaken in recreational drug use life insurance can be hard to come by. It is important to be honest on a life insurance application. Failure to disclose or intentionally withholding information can invalidate the policy, meaning that it will not pay out when you need it, or it could be instantly cancelled without any refund of premiums paid to date. Non-disclosure is a form of insurance fraud and insurance companies are within their rights to censure people who are found to have withheld vital information during the application process.
Most life insurance policies will consider a history of drug abuse to be a pre-existing condition and may require treated addicts to undergo a full medical examination, including blood tests to check for the presence of HIV or Hepatitis A or B before they are willing to consider them as clients. Some insurance companies will also require applicants who have declared previous drug use to take a drugs test to test for the presence of recent prescription or recreational drugs in their system.
There are some insurance companies that will consider offering a policy to a recovered addict if several years have passed since they last took drugs or if they have undergone treatment and rehabilitation and have remained free from addictive substances since then. This would be considered on an individual basis and there is no guarantees that they would be offered a standard policy.
During a life insurance application, if you disclose past drug use, you will usually be asked to complete a detailed questionnaire that aims to understand your individual experience. This will involve detailing the drug(s) that you took, the quantity and the duration that you took them for, the reasons why you took them and the impact that taking them has had on your health, both mental and physical. You will need to declare whether the drug use required you to undertake counselling or take time off work. The questions may feel intrusive but it is important that they are answered truthfully as the insurance company doesn’t use them to judge you or your decisions, but to assess the risk that you pose and to consider what policies they are able to offer, and what exclusions they will need to apply.
Your insurance company may request your medical records from your GP, however you will need to give permission for your records to be disclosed in this way, and you are entitled to see the report before it is sent to the insurance company. This allows you the opportunity to request changes be made if you disagree with anything in the report. However, your doctor is entitled to refuse to make the changes, instead adding a statement that notes your objections to the report that is sent to the insurance company.
Most insurance companies will consider an ex drug user to be a high risk. As such, if they do take them on as a customer, it is very likely that their policy will include additional exclusions, terms and conditions, as well as incurring a higher monthly premium than that which an equivalent person without the drug abuse history would be offered.
Some insurance companies will ask about drug use within a specified period whilst others will want to know about any drug use at all, regardless as to when it happened. Someone who has not used drugs in five years or more would be wise to consider seeking quotes from different insurance companies as there may be some for whom the time elapsed since the last use of drugs would not be considered a barrier to taking out a standard policy.
There is no specific drug addiction insurance policy available, and indeed, the vast majority of insurance companies will not provide cover to anyone who declares that they routinely partake in recreational drug use or are currently taking illegal drugs as they represent too high a risk to the insurance company, both in terms of the likelihood of missing payments, or of dying as a result of their lifestyle choices.
One option that is available to somebody with a history of drug abuse, or who is currently using recreational drugs, is a guaranteed life insurance policy. This type of policy is so called because anyone who applies is guaranteed to be accepted.
This type of policy does not ask any medical questions nor require applicants to undergo a medical examination. Because the insurer is taking on a greater risk by providing insurance without the level of information usually required, they will generally offer a much lower lump sum payout as well as considerably increased monthly premiums. However, someone who does not have savings, is in debt or whose family relies on their income, may decide that such a policy is worth having, even at the extra expense.
At this point, it is important to recognise that drug abuse is considered by insurance companies to be a form of self harm, which is excluded from all life insurance policies as a reason to pay out, so should the death of someone insured under a guaranteed life insurance policy be caused by their drug abuse habit (for example, a drug overdose), the insurance company will not pay out and will not return the premiums paid to date to the family of the deceased.
For this reason, a drug addict should note that taking out a life insurance policy if they do not plan to quit is very likely to be a waste of money and they instead should perhaps consider  seeking medical treatment to combat their addiction.
Drug addiction is likely to come at a high cost, in terms of health, but also financially. If someone is keen to address their drug addiction but is not eligible for health insurance or does not wish to pay the higher rates required for a guaranteed life insurance policy, they can discuss their financial circumstances with Citizens Advice  who will be able to advise them on money management, debt consolidation and saving to provide for their family in the future should their earlier lifestyle choices result in a lower life expectancy or early onset of associated medical conditions.
When applying for a life insurance policy, all drug use must be declared, including the use of medications that have been specifically prescribed to you by a doctor or other medical professional. The use of prescription drugs will not affect your ability to take out a life insurance policy, however, they may prompt the insurance company to begin a dialogue with your GP to understand the extent of your health conditions as this will be a factor in determining the level of cover that they can provide.
There are some drugs, such as cannabis that may be taken for medical or recreational drug use and insurance companies will consider use of these on an individual basis.
Generally, if they have been prescribed by a medical professional to treat a specific condition and the mental and physical health of the person taking them is being regularly assessed, they are unlikely to pose a significant barrier to their ability to take out a life insurance policy. However, those using drugs such as cannabis for purely recreational purposes are likely to encounter greater difficulties in taking out a standard policy. Recreational cannabis use over a year ago may incur a similar treatment to that of a current smoker whilst historical use (greater than five years ago) may be less likely to have an impact.
Illegal drugs, including cocaine, ecstasy and heroin, are treated more seriously and if a declaration is made of current illegal drug abuse insurance companies are likely to reject the application. Historical use of illegal substances, especially if they were used intravenously, are likely to require applicants to undergo a blood test for Hepatitis A and B and for HIV before an application can be progressed.
Claiming on a life insurance policy with a declared history of drug use
Should an ex drug user be accepted for a life insurance policy, they need to make themselves aware of the terms and conditions associated with that policy, including conditions for which they are covered and any exclusions that may exist.
Death occurring from self harm and drug overdoses are common exclusions but are almost certain to feature on a policy for an ex drug user. This is because somebody who has previously used drugs is judged to be fully aware of the risks and dangers associated with them. Most deaths resulting from a drug overdose are likely to be considered as intentional/suicide and no payout will be made upon death.
Some insurance companies will include a stipulation that a post mortem and toxicology report will be required in the event of the death of a client with a disclosed history of drug use, to ensure that misuse of drugs was not a contributing factor to their death, before they pay out.
Should a death be caused by an overdose of prescription drugs, this is more likely to be considered an accidental death, especially if the client was suffering from a disclosed medical condition such as Alzheimer’s which could conceivably result in them unintentionally taking the wrong dosage of their prescribed medication.
In certain, very rare cases, the family of the deceased may wish to contest a rejected life insurance policy claim where the deceased had fully declared their history of drug use and been accepted for a policy on that basis.
Ultimately, an insurance company has the right to deny any life insurance claim where it is found that the deceased was not truthful about their drug use on their application, regardless as to whether their drug use was a contributing factor to their death.
Whilst a history of recreational drug use may make taking out a life insurance policy more complicated, it can be achieved; however is likely to be more expensive and contain more exclusions than a standard policy. For people who are currently taking drugs, taking out a guaranteed life insurance policy should be carefully considered as it is likely that the cost will outweigh the benefit.
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