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How to remove nicotine metabolites from the body?

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Practicing since : 2003
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There seems to be a lot of mixed information when it comes to the time frame of your body removing nicotine metabolites (aka cotinine and it's sub metabolites) from the body. I'm a 2 pack a day smoker and I just quit yesterday for a job offer. I need to take a nic drug screen for the job. Can I make it? Also any advice to help speed up the process.
Posted Thu, 25 Oct 2012 in Drug Abuse
Answered by Dr. Jonas Sundarakumar 3 hours later
Hi and welcome to Healthcare Magic. Thanks for your question...

There are two reasons why you see so much of variation in the time frame for detection of nicotine levels in nicotine screens:

1) There are different types of tests administered (i.e. saliva, blood, urine, etc.) and each test has a different 'sensitivity' rate for detection. For example, a urine test typically has detection period of 4 to 5 days; blood tests can detect nicotine levels upto 7 days; saliva tests can detect this upto 10 days; hair tests (usually used only for forensic purposes) can detect levels even upto a few weeks. So, which test is being administered plays a major role. Usually, most pre-employment screenings use urine tests as they are less expensive. However some employers / insurance companies use salivary or blood tests also.
2) Each person's metabolism can differ according to the enzymes metabolizing the nicotine and according to the health condition of the person. Also, there is going to be a difference between an occasional smoker and a chronic smoker (who will have cumulative nicotine levels and may hence take a longer time to metabolize).

Nicotine has many different metabolites. The most important among them is Cotinine (70 - 80%). The lesser significant ones are Nicotine N'-oxide (4 - 7%), Nicotine-Gluc (3 - 5%) and many others. Most nicotine screens detect Nicotine and Cotinine. The "cut-off" limit is generally set 200ng/mL. This cut-off limit is set because there could be traces of nicotine or its metabolites even in non smokers due to passive inhalation of smoke and hence a leverage is given for this.

Now, in your case, presuming that you will most likely have a urine screening done, my opinion is that at least 7 days of quitting is required to be on the safe side. Unfortunately, there is nothing much you can do to speed up the process of metabolism, other than to stay away form places where you are likely to passively inhale more smoke. Another good idea would be to get a home screening done (home screening kits may be available depending on your locality) before you go for your pre-employment screening.

I hope I have clarified your doubts.
Wish you all the best.

- Dr. Jonas Sundarakumar
Consultant Psychiatrist
Above answer was peer-reviewed by
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