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What Drugs Do Life Insurance Companies Test For?

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Urinalysis is becoming an increasingly popular means for employers, insurers and government agencies to determine the risk profiles of the individuals with whom they interact. While pre-employment drug screenings have been routine for many years, these tests are becoming more prevalent in other areas of the economy as well. If you're applying for a life insurance policy, you might be surprised to learn that you'll be subject to a urine test for certain legal and illegal substances.

If your policy comes with a particularly large face value, you might be subject to an even more rigorous screening. This might come in the form of a blood test or hair-follicle exam. The former may accurately reveal your substance-use history over the preceding three to five months. The latter may accurately measure your substance-use history over the preceding six to nine months.

Although urine tests are far more time-sensitive, they can still reveal evidence of substance abuse within the past few days. For some substances, this look-back window may be a bit longer. For instance, marijuana may remain detectable in urine samples for up to one month after the subject's most recent indulgence.

When you apply for a life insurance policy, you'll probably need to submit to a urine test during the course of your pre-approval medical exam. Unlike certain pre-employment drug screenings that may only test for a few illicit substances, this test is likely to be comprehensive. You'll be tested for metabolic evidence of illegal drugs like marijuana, cocaine, opiates, barbiturates, amphetamines and others. If the screening reveals evidence of any of these substances, you'll be asked to submit to a more sensitive "confirmation" test.

If this test also comes back with a positive reading, your insurance application will probably be denied without comment. After all, your insurance provider will assume that your illegal drug use puts you at risk for a life-threatening overdose or other serious health complications.

If you test positive for non-illegal medications like certain painkillers, you may be asked to produce a prescription for the drugs. Without such a prescription, your coverage application could be denied outright. Meanwhile, you may also be tested for certain legal substances like caffeine and nicotine. If you test positive for caffeine, your insurer may conclude that you're at a slightly higher risk of life-shortening cardiovascular problems and raise your rates accordingly. If you test positive for nicotine metabolites, you'll be forced to pay significantly more for your coverage.


This article contains general legal information but does not constitute professional legal advice for your particular situation. The Law Dictionary is not a law firm, and this page does not create an attorney-client or legal adviser relationship. If you have specific questions, please consult a qualified attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.

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