Urine Test for Nicotine

Submitted by Medical Health Test Team on October 16, 2012

You may be asked to undergo a urine test for nicotine by your doctor if you are a chronic smoker and have some health problems related to the levels of nicotine in your body. You may also be asked to appear for a urine test for nicotine by insurance companies, when you apply for an insurance policy. Nicotine usage is known to cause many health problems and shorten life span. That is why life insurance companies tend to charge a higher premium on smokers as compared to non-smokers. They are also very particular about screening their applicants for nicotine use.

The levels of nicotine in the body can be tested by many methods, such as a blood test, a urine test, a saliva test or testing the hair. The saliva and hair tests are more expensive, while the blood test is invasive. This makes the urine test for nicotine the most popular test, since it is inexpensive and non-invasive.

Nicotine in our body: Nicotine is an addictive substance. Since nicotine diffuses through our body very easily, human beings have devised various ways of delivering it to the bodies. Nicotine is most popularly taken in through the lungs while smoking, or through the mucous membranes which line the nose or gums by sniffing or chewing tobacco and also through the skin using nicotine patches. Once nicotine enters the body, it travels to all the blood vessels of the body and finally to the brain, where the final effects are felt.

Nicotine does not remain in the body too long. Usually it has a half-life of approximately 60 minutes. This means that if you inhale 1 mg of nicotine in a cigarette, approximately only 0.031 mg will remain after 6 hours. That is why the level of nicotine in the body is analyzed by detecting cotinine. This is a major metabolite of nicotine, and remains in the human blood and urine, even 7 to 21 days after the last usage of nicotine.

The major part of the nicotine is metabolized into nicotine oxide, cotinine and a few other metabolites in the liver and lungs. Most of these are filtered from our blood by the kidneys. While most of the cotinine has a half-life of 24 hours, some of them remain for a 1 to 3 weeks, before being finally excreted through the urine. A urine test for nicotine is thus helpful for detecting the levels of cotinine, and thus determining the levels of nicotine even many days after you have last used it.

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