How Long Does Nicotine Remain in Your System?
by Alan Johnson on Aug 25, 2022
How Long Does Nicotine Remain in Your System?
Nicotine is the chemical that gives you a rush when you smoke a cigarette, take a puff from a nicotine vape, or consume nicotine products. Unfortunately, it's widely regarded as an extremely addictive chemical, as evidenced by a large number of smokers around the world.
When lab technicians test for nicotine use in subjects, they look for a chemical metabolite called nicotine. Nicotine is the product that results from the process of breaking down nicotine in the body, which is why it’s used to test whether someone has recently consumed nicotine.
Here's everything you should be aware of with how long nicotine stays in your system:
How Long Does Nicotine Remain in Your Blood?
When a lab technician takes a nicotine test, they will generally test your urine, blood, saliva, or hair follicles. These are the main places where nicotine can be found; however, they will gauge different results on a lab test depending on how long ago you ingested a nicotine product:
Nicotine in Your Urine
Nicotine product in your urine should stop being detectable after 3 to 4 days of tobacco product use. This means that while nicotine leaves your blood from 1 to 3 days after use, its nicotine product will linger in the urine for an extended period of time.
Nicotine in Your Blood and Saliva
Nicotine won't be detectable from up to 3 days after use when blood is tested. On the other hand, saliva drug tests for nicotine have a window of up to 48 hours since the last nicotine use, which gives them a shorter time period for detection than blood.
Nicotine in Your Hair Follicles
Surprisingly, testing their hair follicles is the best way to detect whether someone has ingested nicotine. While results do depend on the hair test and genetic factors, it can take years since your last nicotine use to stop being traceable in hair. While a year is a rare window of time for hair follicle tests, it’s common for nicotine traces to be picked up for weeks and months after your last exposure.
Smoking vs. Vaping
Nicotine tests aren't just limited to tobacco products like cigarettes – you can also use them to determine whether you have used an e-cigarette or vaped with nicotine in the past few days.
However, the amount of nicotine you've ingested is essential when it comes to tracing it through a test, and this is where vaping often differs from smoking in its response to nicotine tests.
Since vaping is primarily a new phenomenon, little research has been done to determine the accuracy of its nicotine contents. Unfortunately, this puts into question the accuracy of nicotine tests when they pertain to vaping. This is because the advertised nicotine contents are often inaccurate and don't reflect the true amount of nicotine you will consume.
Hypothetically, the same amount of nicotine ingested with both a cigarette and a vape should yield the same results on a nicotine ingestion test. It seems that recent scientific evidence is in support of the fact that vaping will cause nicotine to stay in the body for the same amount of time as tobacco products.
What Factors Affect How Much Time Nicotine Stays in Your System?
You may have noted that there is not an exact measurement for how long nicotine stays in your system for any test, whether it be hair follicles, saliva, blood, or urine. The best we can present is an average range because several factors affect the amount of time nicotine will stay in your body.
The first and most obvious element is your frequency of use – someone who tried nicotine once is likely to stop showing traces of nicotine within a couple of days. However, an ex-chain smoker who has just quit may be looking at a much higher time. It can be said that regular smokers might have detectable levels of nicotine in their urine for up to 20 days, which is much longer than the 3-day average for a less seasoned smoker.
Medications you take may also play a role in how long nicotine stays in your system – for instance, antipsychotics and antidepressants are known to interact with nicotine which may increase the amount of time nicotine levels are detectable.
Other important factors which influence the speed in which nicotine leaves your body include your diet and age, as well as genetics. The lesson here is that there is no catch-all number of days that nicotine will stay in your system as there are plenty of factors to consider.
How to Clear Nicotine From Your Body
If you’re looking to clear nicotine from your body, there are a few steps you can take:
- Stay Hydrated – by consuming lots of water, you will be able to remove nicotine and nicotinefrom your body through urine quickly.
- Nutritious Diet – Eating healthy foods with plenty of antioxidants is known to quicken the process of nicotine removal.
- Exercise – Regular exercise will improve your metabolism rate – this will mean nicotine is processed much faster in those who get regular physical activity.
Nicotine Withdrawal Symptoms
Once nicotine has cleared out of your body, you may begin to feel withdrawal symptoms. This is completely normal for any regular smoker taking a break and can manifest in physical and mental ways.
Physical symptoms include an increased appetite, cravings for nicotine, a cough, headaches, fatigue, and constipation. Non-physical symptoms include anxiety, depression, irritability, and mental fog. If you're experiencing any of these after your last cigarette or tobacco product, you are experiencing the natural withdrawal symptoms of nicotine leaving your body.
Physical symptoms such as cravings usually occur in the 10-hour to the 2-day range of quitting tobacco products, as they are a result of the nicotine still being in your body. Headaches occur because of the energy taken for nicotine to leave your system.
Non-physical symptoms tend to occur once the nicotine has left your body, as your mind may want you to receive a release. This is why anxiety is common within a few days of quitting cigarettes. However, by making it to the 2 to 4-week point of stopping tobacco products, you should find that symptoms such as brain fog, poor appetite control, coughing, depression, and anxiety will begin to cease since your body and your mind no longer crave nicotine product.
Tobacco, Nicotine, and Your Health
If this article shows anything, it's that smoking a cigarette or tobacco product does not end when the product is finished. You may think the nicotine has stopped taking effect when that buzz dissipates, but this is far from the case. In the act of smoking, your body begins to absorb chemicals that it has to work very hard to clear out.
It may be the case that nicotine doesn't stay in your body as long as other recreational drugs. However, the chemicals it produces in the process of breaking down can last in your system for weeks. Therefore, the more consistently you consume tobacco and nicotine products, the more traces of nicotine and metabolites will be found in your organs, possibly up to months after you quit.