Nicotine is one of the most addictive substances, which makes smoking a habit that’s notoriously hard to shake. And even if one manages to quit, traces of the substance will still be present in one’s system days after going cold turkey.
E-cigarettes are considered a less harmful alternative to conventional cigarettes. However, e-cigarette cartridges contain as much as 21 to 85% nicotine. The body won’t know the difference so it will absorb the nicotine just the same.
So, how long does nicotine stay in your blood and body? To get the answer, you should take a closer look at the way and rate the human body absorbs this dangerous toxin.
Smoking and Nicotine Ingestion
Tobacco companies make sure to provide a variety of cigarettes to suit individual nicotine addicts. On average, a single cigarette has 12 milligrams of nicotine, about 1 milligram of which reaches the bloodstream.
Once inside the bloodstream, nicotine tests measure nicotine concentration in nanograms per milliliter (ng/ml). This depends on individual smoking habits. For example, the average smoker may have up to 50ng/ml of cotinine – one of the nicotine metabolites – in their blood. But for heavy smokers, the levels can reach a staggering 500ng/ml.
How Long Does Nicotine Stay in Your Blood?
It’ll take about a couple of hours after smoking for your body to remove 50% of the ingested nicotine. On average, it can still be detected in the bloodstream for one to three days after you stopped smoking.
The primary nicotine metabolite, cotinine, can show up in blood tests even after 10 days. The time it takes to fully purge either nicotine or cotinine from the blood may depend on the severity of the smoking habit and individual metabolism.
As for the tests, they can be divided into two categories: quantitative test for the amount of nicotine and qualitative test for the presence of the substance. But you are not out of the woods after three days. Most of the tests also look for the major nicotine metabolites, cotinine and anabasine, which are both alkaloids that stay in the blood for much longer than nicotine.
There is also a strong possibility of a false positive. The culprit for this is the chemical called thiocyanate, which appears in the bloodstream as a result of smoking but is also common in some medications and foods like cabbage and broccoli.
How Long Does Nicotine Stay in Your Urine?
Things are a bit different with nicotine urine tests. For casual smokers, detectable cotinine levels can be present in urine for up to four days. This might go up to three weeks for heavy smokers.
The amount of cotinine or nicotine detected depends on the timing of the urine sample. For example, those who haven’t quit smoking may have up to 1,000 ng/mL of the substance in their urine. But a couple of weeks after quitting, the levels usually drop precipitously but may stay above 30 ng/mL, the threshold for a positive result.
The labs use different reference ranges to interpret nicotine tests. So, if need be, you might need to go over the results with your physician.
Hair Follicle and Saliva Test
Besides blood and urine, trace amounts of nicotine stay in your saliva and hair follicles. In fact, certain hair follicle tests might show positive results up to a year after the last nicotine exposure. But generally, traces of nicotine usually stay in hair follicles for about three months.
When it comes to saliva, it takes your body about four days to purge the saliva of nicotine and cotinine. Unlike hair follicle tests, saliva is commonly used to test for nicotine.
Factors That Influence Nicotine Levels
Some common rules are applicable here. As previously stated, certain individual factors also apply and may be responsible for a prolonged presence of the substance.
Smokers can be divided into three categories. Those who smoke once a week are considered light users. Their body generally gets rid of traceable nicotine in about three days after the last exposure. Moderate users are those who smoke a few times a week and they may expect to test positive for a couple of weeks after quitting.
People who smoke on a daily basis fall under the heavy user category. The nicotine in their blood, urine, and saliva might linger for up to twelve months. But there are other factors that come into play.
With age, it becomes more difficult for the body to deal with nicotine. And the genetic makeup may also play a significant role. Certain studies indicate that Caucasian and Hispanic people metabolize the substance quicker than African and Asian people.
Hormones and liver enzymes may influence the amount of nicotine in the body as well. For example, women who take estrogen or are pregnant might get rid of nicotine faster than men.
How to Purge Nicotine from Your Blood and Body
Abstaining from cigarettes and other products that contain nicotine is the best way to get the toxin out of your system. During abstinence, the cells work hard to remove traces of nicotine from your body.
In addition, there are a few things that you can do to expedite this process. The first line of defense is being well-hydrated. In other words, the more water you drink, the faster the nicotine leaves via your urine.
An antioxidant-rich diet helps as well. Some of the foods you should go for include carrots and oranges. They contain immunity-boosting antioxidants and fibers which may accelerate nicotine removal.
Another way to boost your metabolism is to take up exercise. Nicotine and all of its metabolites are released through sweat when exercising.
The Final Puff
If you haven’t stopped smoking, now is as good a time as any to start. After abstaining from nicotine for a few months, there’ll be no need to wonder how long does nicotine stay in your blood.