How Is Nicotine Absorbed & Metabolized?

Nicotine is a highly addictive chemical present in tobacco plants. Immediately after exposure to nicotine, the adrenal glands are activated, and users experience a buzz of pleasure and contentment. The surge in adrenaline also causes an increase in heart rate, blood pressure and respiration.

Like other stimulants, nicotine can improve mental focus, increase productivity and relieve anxiety. Its rapid release of the neurotransmitter dopamine floods the brain’s reward circuit, making the user feel good and keeps them coming back for more.

How Is Nicotine Absorbed?

There are a number of ways that nicotine can get into the body, including inhalation, ingestion and even through skin contact¹. The absorption of nicotine starts as it enters the mucosal linings in the nose and mouth before transferring to the lungs. As it travels through the bloodstream, it reaches the heart and arteries, which quickly pump it into the brain.

How fast is nicotine absorbed?

When nicotine is inhaled, it takes around 10 seconds to reach the brain, where it activates the release of the neurotransmitters adrenaline and dopamine throughout the body.²

Nicotine can also be absorbed via skin contact. Because skin is permeable, nicotine can enter the bloodstream even through the many layers.

How Is Nicotine Metabolized?

Traces of nicotine can still be detected in your hair, blood, urine and saliva even after you stop consuming it. However, a person’s age, genes and metabolism can all affect how quickly nicotine is removed from the body.

As nicotine is rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream, it is transported to nearly every organ in the body. Inhaled nicotine passes through the lungs to the heart, and then on to the brain. As nicotine continues to travel through the bloodstream, it can reduce activity in certain nerves and could stimulate the stomach to produce nausea or reduce appetite.

How Is Nicotine Excreted From The Body?

In the liver, enzymes break down most of the nicotine into a byproduct called cotinine. Cotinine can be detected in the body even after nicotine has faded, before it is eventually filtered by the kidneys and excreted as urine. Due to its longer half-life (about 16 hours), cotinine is preferred as a more reliable measure of tobacco use.