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We have an opiate crisis in the United States. Because of its association with overdose deaths, there are things to know about life insurance and opioids. First, let’s review the prevalence of opioid use.

Since 1999, the number of drug overdose deaths have quadrupled. The CDC also reported that 136 Americans die per day from opioid overdose. 

Opioid addiction often starts as prescribed medicated pain relief. Unfortunately, with regular use, the body quickly becomes tolerant of these drugs, which means you will need more and more of the drug to feel the same effects.

Opioids, brand names such as OxyContin and Vicodin, are highly addictive. As many as one in four patients receiving long-term opioid therapy in a primary care setting struggles with opioid addiction.

Common opioids include:

  • Oxycodone
  • Methadone
  • Heroin
  • Morphine
  • Hydrocodone
  • Fentanyl

It’s possible to be approved for life insurance if you are currently using prescribed opioids for treatment, but just be aware that your premiums will reflect the risk.

» Calculate: Life insurance needs calculator

Can I buy life insurance with opioid use?

The mortality risk for prescribed opioid use is less than that for illegal opiate users, but there is still a significant risk.

Life insurance underwriters are going to take a close look at the following:

  • The quantity of opioid ingested
  • The stability of the dose
  • Is there drug or alcohol abuse history
  • Are there are other medications being taken (e.g. antidepressant)

Can I buy life insurance with a history of opioid abuse?

Yes. Drug abuse in your past does not mean you cannot buy life insurance in the present. Some applicants may even be offered a preferred risk class. A preferred risk class means it’s better than the standard, or average, risk.

To be considered for preferred, life insurance companies will want to see the following:

  • No current drug use
  • No drug abuse in the last 10 years
  • No evidence of complications related to drug use
  • No residual medical or psychiatric disorders
  • No history of drug trafficking

These factors would be evaluated in addition to other typical risk factors such as family health history and your occupation.

» Learn more: What Are the Risk Factors that Affect Buying Life Insurance?

If you don’t meet the above criteria, you may still be approved for coverage, just not at preferred ratings. To be considered for coverage, in general, below are some favorable factors life insurance companies would like to see:

  • The drug abuse began later on (versus early age onset prior to age 20)
  • It was for a short duration (less than two years)
  • No family history of drug abuse
  • No prior history of drug or alcohol treatment
  • No social interaction with individuals associated with drug use
  • No criminal history
  • No indication of thrill-seeking hobbies
  • History of only a single drug abuse
  • Financial stability and employment
  • Occupation does not provide easy access to drugs
  • Actively involved in a recovery support network such as NA
  • Supportive family environment and marital support
  • No current alcohol or potentially addictive prescription drug use
  • No associated psychiatric diagnoses or chronic pain and/or treatment

You do not need to check every one of these factors off a list in order to be considered, but the more favorable factors you have going for you, the better your life insurance rate.

» Compare: Term life insurance quotes

Life insurance companies underwrite drug abuse history differently. Check out the case study below for a good example. Read on about life insurance and opioids.

Drug abuse in your past does not mean you cannot buy life insurance in the present.

See what you’d pay for life insurance

Comparison shop prices on custom coverage amounts from the nation’s top carriers with Quotacy.

Life insurance and Opioids: Opiate Addiction Life Insurance Case Study

John Smith is 35 years old and had a painkiller addiction five years ago. No relapses since. He currently smokes, but drinks less than one beer per week on average.

He applies via Quotacy and we shop his application around to different life insurance companies we work with. Below are responses from some of the companies when asked if he could be approved and at what risk class.

Insurance Company Offer to Applicant

Life Insurance Company A

Responds to say they would not offer any coverage until at least 7 years have passed.

Life Insurance Company B Responds to say they would offer Standard Tobacco but add a flat extra of $3 for three years.
Life Insurance Company C Responds to say they would offer Standard Tobacco Table B.
Life Insurance Company D Responds to say they would offer Standard Tobacco Table 5.
Life Insurance Company E Responds to say they decline to offer any coverage.

These responses may be confusing if you aren’t familiar with the industry so I’ll explain.

Life insurance companies have Non-Tobacco and Tobacco risk categories. If you smoke, you’re in the Tobacco risk category and you’re paying more. If you don’t smoke, you are in the Non-Tobacco risk category and you pay less.

If the risk to insure you is higher than the average applicant, you’re table rated. This is an increase in price based on the severity of your risk. Depending on the insurance company, tables run from A-P or 1-16. Each step down the table adds 25% to the standard rate.

Sometimes insurance companies opt to add a flat extra. This means that the standard premium for the policy in question is increased by a specified number of dollars per $1,000 of insurance. Flat extras can be permanent or temporary.

Let’s say John Smith applied for a $250,000 20-year term life insurance policy. Based on the tentative offers from the life insurance companies, below are estimates of what John can expect to pay for each of the different options.

Insurance Company Monthly Cost of the Policy
Life Insurance Company A – Postponed. Not applicable since they would not offer for two more years.
Life Insurance Company B – Offered Standard Tobacco plus $3 flat extra for 3 years.

$127.50 per month for three years, then drops to $65 per month after the flat rate is removed.

The average Standard Tobacco rate for a 35-year-old male for a $250K 20-year term policy is $65. The flat extra (250 x 3) / 12 = $62.50 is required by the insurance company for the first three years.

Life Insurance Company C – Offered Standard Tobacco Table B.

$97.50 per month. 

This is calculated by taking the average Standard Tobacco rate of $65 and adding 50% for the Table B rating.

Life Insurance Company D – Offered Standard Tobacco Table 5.

$146.25 per month. This is calculated by taking the average Standard Tobacco rate of $65 and adding 125% for the Table 5 rating.

Life Insurance Company E – Declined. Not applicable since they would not offer.

As you have read, the relationship between life insurance and opioids is complex. You can see from the varied responses (and this is just a handful of the life insurance companies available through Quotacy) it pays to work with a broker. Brokers are not tied to one company and have the ability to shop multiple insurance companies to help you get affordable coverage.

If you’re looking to protect your loved ones with life insurance let us help. Start the process today by getting a term life insurance quote—no contact information required until you’re ready to apply.

» Learn more: Substance Abuse and Life Insurance

 

Note: Life insurance quotes used in this article accurate as of November 24, 2021. These are only estimates and your life insurance costs may be higher or lower.

About the writer

Headshot of Natasha Cornelius, a life insurance writer, for Quotacy, Inc.

Natasha Cornelius

Marketing Content Manager

Natasha is a writer and content editor at Quotacy. She is also co-host of Quotacy’s YouTube series. She can't get enough of life insurance and outside of work is also working toward her Chartered Life Underwriter designation. Connect with her on LinkedIn.