Nicotine is a stimulant and a highly addictive alkaloid that is naturally present in the nightshade family of plants. It is a chief ingredient in tobacco, but it can also be found in tobacco-free products.
As soon as it is ingested, nicotine moves rapidly through the body, entering the bloodstream and arriving at the brain. The user quickly experiences a surge in adrenaline which increases blood pressure, heart rate and dopamine — a neurotransmitter in the brain that is responsible for creating a general feeling of pleasure. This sense of well-being plays a large factor in the addiction process.
The Presence of Nicotine in the Body
When people ingest nicotine, traces of the substance stay in their systems even after they quit. The enzymes in the liver break down nicotine into several chemicals, including the metabolite cotinine — the main byproduct that is tested for when screening for nicotine.
Nicotine and metabolites such as cotinine are expelled in urine, but are also present in saliva, hair, blood and nails for varying periods of time. The level of cotinine present in your system can be measured during routine nicotine tests.
Factors Influencing Nicotine’s Presence in Your System
So, how long does nicotine stay in your blood system? Cotinine can usually be detected for up to three months after ingestion. There are many factors that influence its longevity, including:
- Age – It generally takes longer for older adults to expel nicotine.
- Genes – Studies¹ suggest that Caucasian and Hispanic people may metabolize nicotine more quickly than Asians and African Americans.
- Hormones – Women¹ tend to remove nicotine more quickly than men, especially women who are pregnant or taking birth control.
- Medications – Certain medications² are capable of speeding up nicotine metabolism, while others, such as high blood pressure medication, can slow it down.
- History of use – Nicotine accumulates in the body. The more you consume it, the longer it will take to leave your system.
- Liver function – The liver metabolizes nicotine before it is excreted through urine. The rate at which your liver can break down nicotine will differ for every person, as some people metabolize more quickly than others.
It is possible to speed up the process of expelling nicotine from your body. Try to drink more water, increase your physical activity and consume antioxidant-rich foods such as oranges and carrots.