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    Nicotine Testing: What to Expect

    There are some situations that require getting a nicotine test. Learn what a nicotine test is and what the results mean.

    Smoking Cessation Reference


    What to Know If You Have to Take a Nicotine Test

    Medically Reviewed by Carol DerSarkissian, MD on November 09, 2020

    If you’ve ever applied for a new job, you may have had to take a drug test. Many federal, state, and private employers require this testing to ensure employees can be trusted to protect important information, or even the health and safety of others.

    But did you know that some employers, insurance companies, and other institutions sometimes test for nicotine -- the active ingredient in tobacco products?

    How Does the Test Work?

    There are a couple of ways to test for nicotine and cotinine, the product created after nicotine enters your body:

    Qualitative testing: It simply looks for whether or not you have nicotine in your body.Quantitative testing: It actually measures the concentration of nicotine or cotinine in your body. It gives more information about your tobacco habits. It can tell whether you’re an active smoker or if you’ve recently quit. If you’re not a tobacco user, it can tell if you’ve been breathing in a lot of tobacco smoke or not.

    What Does the Test Look For?

    Usually, the tests look for cotinine, not nicotine. That’s because cotinine is more stable and lasts longer in your body. The only reason you’d have cotinine in your body is if you processed nicotine.

    Cotinine can show up in a blood or urine test. If you have to do a blood test, a lab tech will insert a needle into your vein to collect the sample. If you have to do a urine test, you’ll submit a random urine sample, which means the sample can be taken at any time of day.

    If you’ve quit smoking or using other tobacco products and you’re now on a nicotine replacement product, you may need a test that looks for nicotine, cotinine, and anabasine, a substance that’s found in tobacco but not in nicotine replacement products.

    If you test positive -- meaning anabasine is present in your body -- that indicates you’re actually still using tobacco. It wouldn’t show up if you were just using nicotine replacement products.

    When and Why Are the Tests Ordered?

    There are a lot of reasons why you might have to take a nicotine or cotinine test. Some of the most common reasons include:

    Court-ordered testing in child custody cases

    For smoking cessation programs

    When applying for health or life insurance

    Before certain surgeries

    For employment

    If your doctor suspects nicotine overdose

    How Long Does Nicotine Stay in My System?

    The amount of nicotine in your blood rises just seconds after you light up. But how much you inhale and how much nicotine is in the cigarette both affect how much. People also process nicotine differently depending on their genetics.

    Generally, nicotine will leaves your blood within 1 to 3 days after you stop using tobacco, and cotinine will be gone after 1 to 10 days. Neither nicotine nor cotinine will be detectable in your urine after 3 to 4 days of stopping tobacco products.

    If you smoke menthol cigarettes or breathe in secondhand menthol smoke, cotinine may stay in your urine longer.

    A saliva test is considered the most sensitive way to detect cotinine, and it can detect it for up to 4 days. Hair testing is a reliable way to figure out long-term use of tobacco products and can be very accurate for as long as 1 to 3 months after you stop using tobacco. It can even detect nicotine for up to 12 months.

    What Do Results Mean?

    If your levels of nicotine are moderate, it might mean you used tobacco and stopped about 2 to 3 weeks before the test.

    It’s possible for people who don’t use tobacco to test positive for a low level of nicotine if they’re exposed to tobacco smoke in their surroundings.

    If the test can’t detect any nicotine or cotinine in your system (or it can only detect very low levels), it likely means you don’t use tobacco and you haven’t breathed in smoke in your environment, or you were once a tobacco user but you’ve given up tobacco and nicotine products for several weeks.


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    Source : www.webmd.com

    How Long Does Nicotine Stay in Your System?

    When nicotine is smoked, chewed, or inhaled through secondhand smoke, it’s absorbed into your blood. But how long does it stay in your system? Find out.

    How Long Does Nicotine Stay in Your System?

    Medically reviewed by University of Illinois — Written by Neel Duggal — Updated on March 7, 2019

    We include products we think are useful for our readers. If you buy through links on this page, we may earn a small commission. Here’s our process.

    How long does nicotine last?

    Whenever you smoke or chew tobacco, or inhale secondhand smoke from a cigarette, nicotine is absorbed into your bloodstream.

    From there, enzymes in your liver break most of the nicotine down to become cotinine. The amount of cotinine will be proportionate to the amount of nicotine you ingested. These substances are eventually eliminated through your kidneys as urine.

    Cotinine, nicotine’s main breakdown product, can usually be detected in your body for up to three months after ingestion. How long it stays in your system will depend on how you ingested the nicotine and how frequently.

    Keep reading to learn how long nicotine can be detected in your urine, blood, saliva, and hair.

    How long will traces of nicotine be present in your urine?


    If I smoke one cigarette, how much nicotine will I ingest?

    Anonymous patient


    Although there’s some variance between types of cigarettes, it’s estimated that one cigarette contains 12 milligrams (mg) of nicotine. Your body will absorb about 1 mg of this nicotine into your bloodstream.

    Once the nicotine is in your bloodstream, it’s measured in nanograms per milliliter (ng/mL). The bloodstream of a nonsmoker with no secondhand smoke exposure has cotinine levels less than 1 ng/mL. The level of an average daily smoker is normally higher than 10 ng/mL and can even be as high as 500ng/mL. The average is between 30 and 50 ng/mL.

    Answers represent the opinions of our medical experts. All content is strictly informational and should not be considered medical advice.

    If you smoke infrequently, cotinine will usually be present in your urine for about four days. With regular exposure to nicotine, cotinine may be detectable for up to three weeks after your last exposure.

    A positive urine test depends on when you provide a urine sample relative to the last time you ingested nicotine. If you’re a current smoker, the test may be positive at 1,000 nanograms per milliliter (ng/mL). If you haven’t smoked in over two weeks, a positive test may be over 30 ng/mL. Each lab may have different reference ranges for positivity, so it’s important to discuss the results with your doctor.

    How long will traces of nicotine be present in your blood?

    Nicotine lasts in your bloodstream for one to three days, and cotinine can be detected in your blood for up to 10 days.

    Nicotine in your blood can be detected using tests that are qualitative (whether nicotine is present) and quantitative (how much nicotine is present). These tests can detect nicotine, cotinine, and another breakdown product called anabasine.

    False positives for nicotine are common with blood testing. This is usually because of the presence of a compound called thiocyanate. It’s found in foods like broccoli and cabbage and certain medications.

    How long will traces of nicotine be present in your saliva and hair follicles?

    Nicotine and cotinine can take up to four days to be fully flushed from your saliva.

    Traces of nicotine can generally be found in your hair follicles for up to three months after your last exposure. Depending on the hair test used, nicotine may be detected for up to a year after your last exposure.

    Although hair testing is possible, it isn’t used as frequently as urine, saliva, or blood testing. That’s because hair testing generally costs more.


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    Q&A: How to determine how much nicotine is in your system


    How can I determine how much nicotine is in my system? Are there tests that I can do at home?

    Anonymous patient


    It’s possible to buy over-the-counter urine or saliva tests to check nicotine in your system. These tests generally give a “yes” or “no” answer — they often don’t tell you how much nicotine is in your system. These products aren’t routinely recommended by doctors, so their reliability and accuracy remain unclear compared to the tests run through an employment office or doctor’s office.

    University of Illinois-Chicago, School of Medicine

    Answers represent the opinions of our medical experts. All content is strictly informational and should not be considered medical advice.

    What factors influence how long nicotine stays in your system?

    Although there are general guidelines for how long nicotine will stay in your system, this varies from person to person. Depending on your individual circumstances, nicotine may flush from your system sooner or even last longer.

    How frequently you smoke

    People who smoke are generally divided into three different categories:

    Light users, or people who smoke only once per week

    Source : www.healthline.com

    How Long Does Nicotine Stay in Your System? a Few Days to a Few Months

    How long nicotine stays in your system depends on factors like smoking frequency. Antioxidants from food like garlic can clear it out more quickly.


    How long nicotine stays in your system and ways to clear it out more quickly

    Sarah Fielding Oct 15, 2020, 1:57 PM

    Eating foods that are high in antioxidants, like garlic, can help nicotine pass through your body more quickly. Annick vanderschelden photography/ Getty Images

    How long nicotine stays in your system depends on factors like how frequently you smoke, your age, and whether you take any medications.

    Nicotine can stay in your blood for about three days, but nicotine can be detected in urine for up to three weeks. In addition, nicotine can stay in your hair for about three months, and sometimes up to a year. This article was medically reviewed by Jason R. McKnight, MD, MS, a family medicine physician and clinical assistant professor at Texas A&M College of Medicine. 

    Visit Insider's Health Reference library for more advice.

    If you're starting a new job or applying for health insurance, you may be asked to take a nicotine test. Every time you use tobacco, nicotine — a chemical compound found in tobacco — enters your body. It can be detected in the body for up to one year depending on the type of sample a nicotine test uses.

    Here is what you need to know about how long nicotine stays in your system and how to clear it out quickly.

    How does a nicotine test work? 

    Nicotine tests collect samples from either the hair, urine, saliva, or blood. Most nicotine tests don't actually test for nicotine. Instead, they look for one of its by-products: cotinine.

    "In the body, nicotine is broken into its derivatives, the most important being cotinine," says Anis Rehman, MD, an assistant professor in the department of internal medicine at Southern Illinois University. "Cotinine usually lasts much longer than nicotine in the body. Therefore, most smoking tests look for cotinine."

    Nicotine tests are also able to determine if someone is using nicotine replacement therapy versus actively smoking. That's because it also tests for anabasine, a compound found in tobacco that would not show up from nicotine replacements like patches or gum, says Sharita E. Warfield, MD, a board-certified emergency medicine physician.

    And while both nicotine and cotinine can be present in non-smokers if they are around tobacco smoke, the quantity will be significantly lower. "People who are habitual smokers generally have about 30 to 50 ng/ml of nicotine in their blood, whereas non-smokers have less than five ng/ml," says Warfield.

    How long does nicotine stay in your system? 

    According to Warfield and Rehman, here's how long nicotine and cotinine can be detected in the body, depending on what sample is being collected:

    Blood: Nicotine can be detected in blood for about three days, and cotinine will last for about ten days.Urine: In a regular smoker, nicotine and cotinine can be detected in urine for up to three weeks. In an infrequent user, nicotine only stays in the urine for about four days after smoking, and cotinine lasts for seven to ten days.Saliva: Nicotine and cotinine stay in saliva for about four days.Hair: Nicotine can stay in the hair for about three months, but can occasionally be detected for up to one year in a consistent smoker.

    What factors influence how long nicotine stays in your system? 

    While tests can give a general idea of how recently you've smoked, other factors determine how long nicotine will register in your body.

    How frequently you smoke

    The most significant determinant of how long nicotine stays in your system is the quantity and frequency you smoke.

    "The more a person uses tobacco products, the higher the concentration of nicotine and cotinine," Warfield says.

    Your age

    As people get older, their metabolism tends to slow down, and they often become less active. This means the body metabolizes nicotine at a slower rate, so it stays in your system for longer, says Rehman.


    Taking certain medications can change how fast your body processes nicotine. "For instance,


    Antibiotics treat infections by either killing or sterilizing bacteriaAntibiotics work by rupturing the protective cell walls of harmful bacteria. They start working immediately but you may not feel relief for 1-3 days.

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    and phenobarbital [a medicine for controlling seizures] can speed up metabolism, whereas antifungals and some


    medications can slow down metabolism," says Warfield.

    A faster metabolism means you'll flush nicotine out of your system more quickly than if you have a slower metabolism. Speak to your doctor if you are on any specific medications to see how they could impact your body's ability to clear nicotine.

    Hormone levels in your body

    Women tend to metabolize nicotine faster than men, says Rehman. "Pregnant women or those on estrogen replacement therapy will clear nicotine faster... as estrogen facilitates nicotine metabolism more quickly," he says. It is important to note that women who are pregnant should not use tobacco products as they can result in birth defects.

    Source : www.insider.com

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