How long does Nicotine stay in your system?

Nicotine is a legal drug which has been on the market for many years. This while understanding completely the threat it causes to one’s health. Studies show that the number of people addicted each year is lowering. In this article, you will see how long nicotine stays in your system and how it is tested. Also included are effects of nicotine and how to know if you show signs of addiction.


How long does Nicotine stay in your system?

  • The metabolism of nicotine creates cotinine which is stable and is used to find the half-life of the nicotine metabolite. Cotinine can be detected in the body from 7-40 hours after use of nicotine.  Depending on use and test done.(1)

How long does Nicotine stay in your blood?

  • Some studies have shown the half-life of nicotine in the blood as short as 2 hours. But this does not take into account the slow release of nicotine which comes from body tissues.
  • If you only smoke one cigarette and you are not a chronic smoker the drug will be out of your system within three days.
  • For someone who is a chronic smoker, the half-life increases 3-4 times making its half-life about 6-8 hours.
  • Nicotine is not eliminated rapidly from the system. Traces of the drug stay in the system longer due to the buildup of the drug in the tissues over time. (10, 11)
  • The half-life of cotinine is longer and has less up and down flux as nicotine. (1)

How long does Nicotine stay in your urine?

  • Some studies have shown a half-life of nicotine in the urine as 11 hours. If you are not a chronic smoker nicotine can be detected within 3-4 days.
  • Someone who is a chronic smoker the half-life increases 3-4 times making its half-life 33-44 hours. And can be detected in your urine for up to 15 days.
  • Nicotine is not eliminated rapidly from the system. Traces of the drug in the urine stay in the system longer due to the buildup of the drug in the tissues over time. (10)
  • The half-life of cotinine is longer and has less up and down flux as nicotine. (1)

How long does Nicotine stay in your saliva?

  • This test also represents the presence of second hand smoke and can be positive for up to four days after exposure. (8,9)

How long does Nicotine stay in your hair?

  • Nicotine is not currently tested using hair follicle tests. (12)

Nicotine Side Effects

  • Depression: Noted twice as often in smokers as non-smokers.
  • Insomnia: Inability to sleep, or reduction in total sleep time. (1)
  • Decreased appetite due to a decrease in taste bud sensation.
  • Increase digestive activity. This can cause sweating, nausea, and diarrhea.
  • The increase in saliva production.
  • High blood pressure
  • Temporary stimulant effects such as an increase in memory, alertness, and mood. (4)

Withdrawal Symptoms

Withdrawal symptoms begin as soon as a few hours after you finish a cigarette. These symptoms reach their peak in about three days then begin to subside. But the craving for nicotine can last for several months. Because nicotine addiction often is related to physical habits so simple everyday activities can trigger withdrawal symptoms.

  • Irritability/frustration
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Cravings
  • Weight gain due to increased appetite.
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Drowsiness
  • Difficulty with concentration.
  • Night terrors
  • Attention and cognitive defects. (3,4)

Nicotine Addiction

If you answer yes to at least 2 of the following 11 criteria when considering the last 12 months you may have a positive diagnosis of nicotine addiction

  • Increase in amount of time or dosage.
  • If you have failed serious attempts to cut down on smoking.
  • Spend much time obtaining your method of tobacco use.
  • Constant intense cravings for tobacco.
  • Failure in activities of daily living due to tobacco use.
  • Use of tobacco even when it interferes with social or personal benefit.
  • Stopping recreational or social activities that you like in order to use tobacco.
  • Smoking when it can be dangerous such as in bed or near gas pumps.
  • Smoking even when you have known secondary diagnosis due to smoking.
  • Showing signs of tolerance noted as a constant increase in use and decrease the effect of the drug.
  • If you show any of the signs of withdrawal when making attempts at not smoking.

How can I manage my addiction?

Nicotine replacement therapy

This basically gives you lower and lower doses of nicotine until the withdrawal symptoms are tolerable. There are many kinds of replacements a few are as follows:

  • Nasal spray
  • Gum
  • Lozenges
  • Patch
  • Tablets
  • Inhaler

Non-nicotine medications

Some medications have been noted to help with decreasing withdrawal symptoms . These medications are bupropion and varenicline (1,5)

Symptoms of addiction

  • Inability to stop when serious attempts are made.
  • The time it takes to smoke the first cigarette shortens and a number of cigarettes smoked per day increases.
  • Accelerated heart rate, high blood pressure, and loss of weight.
  • The experience of withdraw symptoms which will be noted in more detail bellow.
  • You smoke even when you are sick or even if you have developed a chronic illness due to smoking.
  • Irritability and frantic or manic demeanor.
  • Avoid smoke-free environments regardless of if your friends are family will be present or if it’s an activity you enjoy. (1,5)

Nicotine Drug Test

As noted before nicotine drug tests look for cotinine which is a carcinogen that comes from the metabolization of nicotine. (6) It is most useful in testing because it is noted in the system longer than nicotine itself.

Urinal Drug Test

  • Urine testing for cotinine not only shows if someone is a smoker but also exposure to cigarette smoke. (2)
  • Lab results of 1ng/ml are equal to 100 ug of nicotine per day.
  • Cotinine stays in the urine 4-5 times longer than in the blood.
  • Many factors can affect the lab outcome such as:
  1. Urine pH
  2. Flowrate
  3. Kidney function
  4. The most convenient method of collection.(8)

Blood Test for Nicotine

  • Newborns can be tested using dried blood as evidence of the mother smoking near delivery time. (7)
  • This test can also be used to measure secondhand smoke levels.
  • Levels are lower than that which shows in urine. (8)
  • Requires lab personnel and proper handling. (9)

Nicotine Saliva:

  • This test can also be used to measure secondhand smoke levels.
  • Levels are lower than that which shows in urine. (8)
  • Non-invasive and one of the easiest methods of collection.
  • Allows ability to give results of how many cigarettes are smoked per day.
  • Can be collected without medical experience. (9)

References:

  1. http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/287555-overview
  2. http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/866191
  3. https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/tobacco/nicotine-addictive
  4. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/000953.htm
  5. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/nicotine-dependence/symptoms-causes/dxc-20202603
  6. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3617060/
  7. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3842901/
  8. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2734286/
  9. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3178743/
  10. https://labtestsonline.org/understanding/analytes/nicotine/tab/sample
  11. http://www.inchem.org/documents/pims/chemical/nicotine.htm#SectionTitle:6.3 Biological half-life by route of exposure
  12. http://www.columbushealthandwellness.com/documents/hairtestinfosheet.pdf

Published on by under Addiction and Withdrawals.
Article was last reviewed on August 15th, 2016.

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