According to the CDC, potentially more than 34 million adults smoke in the United States. Unfortunately, smoking tobacco products is the leading cause of preventable death in the country (20% of such deaths). Fortunately, the United States has seen a significant drop in the total number of people that smoke and an increase in people who quit for health purposes.
It’s well-known that quitting can be difficult. One primary reason? Tobacco products don’t just contain tobacco; they also contain the addictive substance nicotine. When it comes to quitting, many wonder, “How long does it take for nicotine to clear the body?”
How Long Does Nicotine Stay in Your System?
When it comes to how long nicotine stays in your system, nicotine tests for smoking/exposure to tobacco smoke typically do not look for nicotine. Instead, the tobacco test will look for cotinine. What’s cotinine? It’s a metabolite of nicotine. This phrase means that when you inhale or chew tobacco, your body breaks down the nicotine from these products. This breakdown results in cotinine.
Why do so many tests look for cotinine instead of nicotine? Because cotinine stays in your system and tests can detect the substance in your system for longer periods of time than nicotine is. This fact is likely because the body eliminates cotinine more slowly than it does nicotine and that cotinine has a longer half-life than nicotine.
- Nicotine half-life: roughly 2 hours
- Cotinine half-life: roughly 16 to 19 hours
(“Half-life” in this context refers to how long it takes for these substances’ concentrations in your system to decrease by half. Note that it takes more than 2 half-lives for the body to completely eliminate these substances.)
It’s important to note that how long each substance is detectable varies widely, based on several factors like pregnancy, age, and gender, in order to determine how long nicotine stays in your system. Research furthermore indicates that people who use oral hormonal birth control methods metabolize nicotine faster than those who do not use such contraceptives.
How Long Does Nicotine Stay in Urine?
When it comes to how long nicotine stays in urine, tests for tobacco smoke exposure are most commonly urine tests. Not only are these forms easier and often cheaper than others, but urine has up to six times the concentration of cotinine as saliva or blood.
Saliva and blood are found at much lower levels in the urine in your body, making it important to test for all three. Nicotine and cotinine from products stays in the urine in your system for a similar amount of time.
- Nicotine: Typically not detectable four days after last exposure
- Cotinine: Typically not detectable four days after last exposure
How Long Does Nicotine Stay in Saliva?
- Cotinine: cotinine can be detected in your saliva up to four days after last exposure
How Long Does Nicotine Stay in Blood?
- Nicotine: 1 to 3 days in your blood after last exposure
- Cotinine: 1 to 10 days in your blood after last exposure
How Long Does Nicotine Stay in Hair Follicles?
Hair follicle tests aren’t as popular as urine tests, but they can detect nicotine long after your last exposure. A nicotine test is most accurate one to three months after your last exposure. If you utilize a nicotine and cotinine levels test product too early, for instance after three days or three weeks, it’s likely that it will not be as accurate.
However, advanced nicotine hair test can actually detect nicotine exposure in your hair not only three days after, but even a year after your last smoke.
Can Doctors Tell If You Smoke From a Blood Test?
Yes. If you have it in your system, nicotine will show up during a blood test. Blood tests are able to find nicotine in your blood using tests that determine where the nicotine is present and how much nicotine is present. These tests can also find nicotine and cotinine. Medical tests can also detect nicotine in your blood, urine, saliva, hair, and nails. But, nicotine and cotinine may have different results in saliva tests and others given.
These substances stay in your system and stay in your blood for a varied length of time. Nicotine stays in the body and nicotine can be detected 1 to 3 days after last exposure, while cotinine may stay in the body 1 to 10 days after last exposure.
What are the Effects of Nicotine?
While nicotine can produce pleasing effects in your brain, these effects are short-term. Long-term, nicotine may have devastating effects on the body. The levels of nicotine you use may vary the long-term effects, but nicotine use has negative effects on the body overall. The adverse reactions of nicotine, according to the Mayo Clinic, including:
- Lung cancer and lung disease
- Heart and circulatory system problems
- Eye problems (cataracts, loss of eyesight)
- Infertility and impotence
- Complications during pregnancy
- Cold, flu and other illnesses
- Tooth and gum disease
How Can I Prevent Nicotine’s Effects?
The number one way to way to prevent the adverse reactions of nicotine and tobacco use is to not do it in the first place. Whether you use it short-term or long-term, nicotine use effects the body and your overall health in one way or another.
How Can I Stop Smoking?
Nicotine is an addictive drug, making it quite difficult to quit. If you’ve tried to stop before but have failed, you’re not alone. Most smokers make several attempts to stop before they’re able to stop using it for good. In order to be successful, it’s recommended that you talk to a doctor.
An advice diagnosis or treatment plan from a doctor provides a medical advice diagnosis that will give you the highest chance of success and help prevent you from using tobacco.
A healthcare professional will be able to give you an advice diagnosis or treatment plan that addresses each aspect of nicotine dependence, as well as advise you on where to get further help to stop using nicotine products.
Several methods for treatment include medications and counseling. Be sure to avoid electronic cigarettes, as it’s proven not to be a good idea to substitute another type of tobacco use. In order to be successful, steer clear of these products that are typically used as a nicotine replacement:
- Dissolvable tobacco products
- Nicotine lollipops and balms
- Cigars and pipes
What are the Withdrawal Symptoms of Nicotine?
When you manage to stop, you may experience nicotine symptoms of withdrawal.. These are the temporary physical and emotional changes associated with quitting, but are good signs that your body is recovering. Common symptoms from the withdrawal of nicotine, according to Health Recovery, include:
- Cough, Dry Throat, and Nasal Drip
- Lack of Concentration
- Tightness in the Chest
- Gas, and Stomach Pain
- Craving for a Cigarette
While all of these effects that come with smoking cessation are unpleasant, they’re well worth the temporary downsides in the long run. Methods to help with smoking cessation include drinking plenty of water and finding ways to keep yourself busy until the cravings pass.
In the end, stopping a nicotine addiction can prevent may long-term side effects that can have detrimental effects on your health, which is why seeking professional medical advice is so important.
How Do I Manage Symptoms of Withdrawal?
For many people that smoke, cravings can last twice as long as other symptoms of withdrawal. The fact is, cravings can be triggered by people, places, or things, which makes having a plan to handle the craving extra important.
Fortunately, the cravings pass if you keep them time and keep yourself busy. In order to get the best plan for your recovery, be sure to speak with your healthcare provider for a medical advice diagnosis.
Take a short walk, watch your favorite show, or even read a book to try to keep your mind off of the craving. While withdrawal can be uncomfortable, nicotine withdrawal isn’t dangerous. In fact, quitting is the best thing you can do for your health.
All in all, it’s important to keep in mind that these symptoms will fade over time, making quitting worth the improvement of your health.
Resources for How to Quit Smoking
So, how long does it take to successfully quit? The answer depends on how long you’ve been using tobacco. Depending on the amount of nicotine your body has been exposed to, stopping the use of a tobacco product proves to be a daunting challenge. Those who want be smoke-free may find the following resources, tips, and tricks helpful:
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)
- American Lung Association
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
Be sure to contact your healthcare provider if you plan on quitting. The medical advice your doctor gives can allow you to have the highest chance of success from your journey to recovery.