Why would someone want to know about nicotine levels in the bloodstream? Well, for many reasons but a few that come to mind. How long will they go before cravings arise? How long it remains detectable in a urine or blood test?
Why would someone care about this? Perhaps they have a job where drug testing is mandatory for whatever reason. While smoking or vaping is not going to get you fired it certainly will have an impact on things like health insurance and life insurance. If you are too much of a liability you may not qualify for these things.
When a test shows positive for nicotine insurance companies do not consider or care if it comes from a cigarette or NRT type device. The only thing they care about is that it’s there. Even if they were aware that you were using a vaping device, they would still consider the fact you could return to combustible cigarettes, therefore disqualifying you from cheaper benefits.
In some countries this may not matter, not all companies test blood or urine and health companies do not know the difference.
So, how long does nicotine stay in your system? It honestly varies based on many factors. Age, race, gender, diet and many more factors will decide how long it is detectable.
Depending on the frequency of nicotine consumption the timeframe for the nicotine to be detectable can be very different. A heavy nicotine user may have very high Cotinine levels which can be detected up to a month or more after the last use.
How does nicotine acts in the bloodstream?
Nicotine is first introduced into our systems by inhaling the source item such as a cigarette, vape or other NRT method.
When you introduce nicotine to the body, it is absorbed into the bloodstream. From that point enzymes in the liver break the nicotine down into Cotinine. The amount of Cotinine will directly correlate with the amount of nicotine you have consumed. From there it eventually passes through the system into the urine.
A cigarette contains at least 12mg of nicotine per unit and it is estimated that only 1mg of nicotine will be absorbed into the bloodstream. Once the nicotine enters the bloodstream it is then measured in nanograms per milliliter. Cotinine levels in the average smoker can range from 10ng/ml and 500ng/ml but the true average is about 30-50ng/ml.
When a non smoker is tested for nicotine they will display a cotinine level 1ng/ml or less, this is how they find out if you are using nicotine or not.
Types of Testing Nicotine Levels
Nicotine can be found within your bloodstream via a standard pin prick test or needle test. This is the most reliable testing method available. Nicotine levels can be found in the bloodstream for up to three days after the last use and Cotinine levels for up to a month depending on how heavy of a user you are.
There are two types of blood tests. Qualitative testing which determines if nicotine is actually present in the system. Quantitative testing which determines the nicotine levels present in the system.
There is a compound which can toss a false positive for nicotine which is called thiocyanate. This compound can sometimes be found in things like broccoli, cabbage and certain medications.
Saliva and Hair Follicle
Yes, nicotine can be tested via your spit and hair follicles. It can be found in your saliva for up to four days after the last use. While testing the hair follicles can be good for up to three months after the last use.
Hair follicle testing is fairly uncommon and will most likely be overlooked for other forms of testing first.
Other Factors for Length of Time in the System
There are many more factors to consider. When thinking of how long nicotine will stay in the system and we have listed some above already. To extend on that here are some others.
- Liver Function
- Genetic Makeup
- Light Users, Heavy User or Very Heavy User
If this was confusing for anyone to read let’s make it simple. Let’s say you are a regular consumer of nicotine. It will be detectable as long as you continue to use it. If you are quitting or a casual user, depending on the variables above it can take up to a full month for it to clear from the system and as little as four days.
There is no concrete answer for this question but rather general guidelines for what to expect, everyone is different.
I am John Pietersma, a 30-year-old husband and father of three children who lives in Nova Scotia, Canada. Having vaped and built coils for four years, I am very passionate about vaping and writing product reviews for everyone to read.