Nicotine Poisoning

Nicotine Poisoning

Looking at the common causes, symptoms, treatment and preventive measures.

A rise in the extent of health consciousness has given the many people a desire to learn about the brutal effects of nicotine. Thus, millions of people are trying sincerely and seriously to give up the addiction to nicotine. However, the concept of nicotine poisoning has been yet to gain that much popularity. If truth be told, the majority of consumers of nicotine products will not believe that nicotine can even cause poisoning. But, it is a fact, and millions of people are getting affected by nicotine poison. Hence, it makes sense to discuss about this topic so that people can develop better knowledge on the effects of such poisoning, and take the suitable remedial measures.

Explained in simple terms, nicotine poisoning refers to the toxic effects, triggered by nicotine, subsequent to ingestion, inhalation as well as skin contact with nicotine. This holds the potential to get to a threatening state, however fatal or serious overdose happens rarely. In the majority of instances with poisoning of nicotine, it appears as the consequence of using nicotine as insecticides.
In recent times, nicotine poison cases appear in the form of “Green Tobacco Sickness” or as the result of ingesting tobacco based products or plants, containing nicotine.

People, harvesting or cultivating tobacco are more likely to suffer from Green Tobacco Sickness. This is a form of poisoning that happens due to the contact of the wet tobacco leaves with the skin of the cultivators. Instances of tobacco poisoning are most frequently observed in young and inexperienced tobacco harvesters, even if they are not consuming tobacco-based products in any forms. This way the count of victims of tobacco poisoning is rising constantly across the globe.

How One Can Ingest Nicotine?

Before discussing about the poisoning of nicotine, one needs to consider the probable ways for inhalation of nicotine. When you take a puff, nicotine enters the bloodstream, skin and hair. However, for ingesting nicotine, one require consuming e-liquid cigarette, nicotine gums or nicotine patch directly. Such instances are most likely to take place in the households with nicotine consumers and even little children around. In such cases, there are risks that the child may get access to nicotine based products and start consuming it directly, which can be very fatal.
Though, anyone can suffer from poisoning from nicotine as an outcome from ingesting it, the little ones stand more vulnerable to this threat. Their immune system is not that developed as in adults, and thus, it becomes very hard for children to fight the adverse effects of nicotine. Hence, the nicotine poisoning symptoms in the infants will take more acute conditions.

Nicotine ingestion is just like you smoked numerous cigarettes or, taking nicotine patches in a series, all at a go. The majority of users of nicotine-based products will not suffer the same effects, compared to the probable effects that are likely to appear in cases of ingestion into the body system. Thus, there will be differences in the symptoms of nicotine poisoning observed in these cases individually.

How Dangerous is Nicotine?

The consequences of smoking on health have been documented extensively and now, people are aware that this dangerous habit triggers the chances for Lung Cancer, Stroke, Heart Disease, cause infections in the lung, enhance the risk of allergies, as well as COPD, asthma and various other ailments. However, there is always a question about nicotine being the main culprit beyond all these troubles.

In this context, it will be especially relevant to state that the majority of the threats that are assumed to be rising from smoking, actually rises from the smoke and the chemical agents that are usually found in cigarettes as well as in other tobacco products. Acting as a stimulant, nicotine is likely to enhance the level of blood pressure. But, you can never consider it to be the most dangerous effect of smoking. This is especially relevant in the cases of the individuals who don’t have sensitivity to stimulants.

As the Journal of Toxicology reveals, poisoning of nicotine is one of the major factors beyond Cardiac Arrests. This journal published a case report of similar instance and it was found that the victim, in this case a 32 year male, caught cardiac arrest and it was evaluated that the presence of 3.7 UG/ML of nicotine, was detected within the body after 11 hours from the time of arrest, and this was the key culprit for the cardiac arrest. The instance intensified to such extent that the victim went to a traumatic stage and the doctors had to fight severely to save his life.
With that said, nicotine majorly acts in intensifying the addiction towards the tobacco-based products that makes it almost impossible for the consumers to give up the habit, although, they are well aware of the hazardous effects of such habit on their health. But, if restricted within moderate dosage, nicotine can never ever reap lethal outcomes.

Nicotine Poisoning
Nicotine at 100% concentration is Fatal if Swallowed, or with Skin Contact

The Human Body and Nicotine

If you want to understand nicotine poisoning and fight it, first and foremost you require developing a detained knowledge on the pathway through which the chemical influences the human body. Nicotine gets absorbed into your bloodstream after you smoke, or consume any nicotine-containing items like patches or gums. These instances pave a way for nicotine to smoothly enter into your body and stimulates the brain. However, if one ingests nicotine directly or uses snuffing tobacco via the nasal passage, then more of nicotine can get into the bloodstream.

The lower limit for a lethal dosage of nicotine is estimated to vary in the range between 500 & 1000 MG. Infants may turn ill as consequence of ingesting a cigarette. Ingestion in higher extent can result in severe illness. Nicotine found in e-cigars can produce hazardous outcome to children and babies, if they accidentally ingests it, or establish skin contact. In few instances, poisoning with nicotine has appeared as a result of applying topical medical creams, like products which contain nicotine in very high extent.

Once Nicotine reaches the brain, immediately, it starts stimulating the brain and as a result, adrenaline courses through it rapidly, and starts a massive forte of physical and chemical reactions. Epinephrine, a secretion of the adrenal gland as a result of exposure to nicotine, is exactly the same as the same chemical produced naturally inside the body, when you get when your afraid, or in instances of excitement, or you feel stressed. It produces an impacting but short-lived boost within the human brain. As a consequence of adrenaline rush, blood pressure and heart rate rise abnormally as well as enhance the rate of glucose output and enhances the rate of respiration.

In addition, Nicotine can have an extremely strong impact on the output of Dopamine in the human brain. This chemical is called the Pleasure molecule, and it has got a significant influence on the primitive level. Feelings like motivation and pleasure as a result of dopamine release in the human brain, in spite the fact that the human brain relish the pleasure feeling due to the release of this agent, the addiction involves the aspect of motivation.

Once the effect of dopamine ceases, the body desires to relish the feeling of pleasure again and this creates the pathway for the development of all sorts of addiction. Nicotine goes out of the body within a while and after it has moved out, the pathway for this feeling, desires to regain it. With the passage of time due to constant intake of nicotine, this agent captures the entire system and this enhances the addiction to nicotine that, in turn, makes the consumer to consume nicotine in higher extent.

You will explore a shock to know that the entire mechanism in this regard is exactly similar to the pathway that is involved in substance abuse. In the same manner as one gets addicted to cocaine or heroine, Nicotine influences a person easily to fall into the traps of brutal addiction.
The Dopamine receptors present in the human brain, actually start diminishing, reducing the extent of dopamine, absorbed and it stimulate the system to demand higher supply of Nicotine.

Consumers of nicotine products are likely to experience varied feeling. Though Nicotine actually plays the role of a stimulant, the majority of the consumers state that they feel relaxed and it brings some sedative effects. In other instances, people start feeling more alert or aware. While in very rare cases, people have even experienced some Euphoric feeling.

Though, you can never ever held Nicotine solely responsible for all the adverse health hazards that are assumed to arise from it, however, it is definitely a major cause beyond such troubles. Nicotine is the primary agent that intensifies the addiction. Scientists are still conducting research and collecting information regarding the impact of nicotine on the human body. However, the modern society is shaping its own convictions and ideas on this correlation.

A Few Culprits Beyond Instances of Nicotine Poisoning:

Though unlikely to occur from usual smoking, poisoning with nicotine has been always a potential risk. Just like other drugs, one can overdose with nicotine as well. The limit of exposure depends on aspects like sensitivity and body weight. Likewise, in various places, one will require inhaling nicotine in very high extent to fall into the traps of this threat. In the majority of the instances, nicotine-poisoning appears as outcome of using insecticides, which is not that common in the household, as in cultivation and farming sites. In addition, the following are the main culprits that can be held responsible in this regard:

  • E-cigarettes: the nicotine content in E-cigars go to a high extent and thus, it is one of the potential agent for causing nicotine poisoning. Though the effects are not brutal usually, but it definitely carries a potential of risk to infants and young children if they get to consume it directly.

  • Nicotine Patches and Gums: if you are trying on any sort of nicotine replacement items to quit smoking, you need to keep in mind that nicotine gums are not the same products as the Candy gums. Hence, indiscriminate consumption can result in over dosage of nicotine. The patches and gums as well as other Nicotine products should be consumed in minimum extent.

Always Keep Nicotine Products Away From Children.
Always Keep Nicotine Products Away From Children.
In this regard, it will be worthy to cast the reference to a study made by Gianfrancco CereVellin. He conducted a research that pointed out that the inhalation and injection of the E-liquid can pave the way for more than 1000 mg of nicotine to enter into the blood stream and hence, can trigger poisoning. It is to nullify this threat that all the nicotine-containing products and devices should be kept out of the reach of the children. This way, you can keep the innocent babies safe from such brutal consequences and thus, ensuring their well being.

How Much Nicotine it takes to Create Poisoning?

Bernd Mayer conducted a study in the year 1996, under the title, “How much nicotine kills a human?”. As suggested in this work, about 60 mg of nicotine will be strong enough to start to show some effect of poisoning.
Considering the great diversity in the available tobacco products, nicotine liquid poisoning seems to be more potent. Smoking is rarely the cause for such instances. If truth be told, one needs to smoke more than 40 cigarettes at a go to experience such stage. Likewise, you should chew at least 15 gums together to fall into the trap of poisoning. Keep in mind that a smoker will inhale just about 1/10th of the total nicotine content and this way, you will not get more than 1 mg of nicotine supply each time you smoke. However, you need to consider factors like age and body weight to reach to a final conclusion.

Symptoms Usually Noted in Victims of Poisoning Due to Nicotine:

Poisoning of nicotine will produce results, following a specific pattern and it arises due to the excessive stimulation in the Autonomus and central systems as well as on the Neuromuscualr systems. If consumed in lower dosages, nicotine will stimulate the receptors and in instances of excessive intake or due to continuous exposure, it will produce inhibitory results, leading to troubles with the Neuromuscular systems.
The initial symptoms of nicotine poisoning are usually the outcome of stimulating effects and these outcomes may include hypertension, vomiting tendencies, mild to severe headache, seizures as well as excessive salivation. After the initial phases, other sets of symptoms like depression come up and it leads to other troubles like weakness of the muscles, depression of the central nervous system, coma, paralysis, labored breathing, and eventually respiratory failure. In addition, following symptoms of poisoning with nicotine are usually noticed:

  • Nausea, followed by acute abdominal pain.

  • Agitation and restlessness.

  • Cramping

  • The victim will either face troubles like difficulties in breathing or rapid breathing.

  • Confusion and convulsion are among the common signs of nicotine poison

  • Drooling

  • Feeling burnt sensation inside the oral cavity

  • Fainting

  • Weak feelings.

Signs of poisoning like fainting, seizures, and coma happen rarely and only in instances of severe poisoning.

If one has any of the above symptoms of nicotine poisoning, then your doctor may carry out a blood or urine test to confirm the levels of nicotine or cotinine.

Symptoms of nicotine poisoning
Image Showing the Most Common Symptoms of Nicotine Poisoning.


How to Prevent and Deal with Poisoning with Nicotine?

The most effective way for preventing poisoning will be to refrain from nicotine in all the probable forms. However, as in reality, consuming nicotine based products has turned into a culture and in this regard, smoking makes the highest contribution. It requires special attention to the extent and volume of nicotine intake and you should always refrain from taking various nicotine products in combination together. When it comes to the aspect of e-cigars that runs on liquid nicotine, you should require keeping a track of the concentration and quantity of nicotine intake very carefully.

If instances of poisoning or if exposure / overdose happens, you require applying a specific set of medical help, and subsequently one should call for medical attention. If the eye is getting exposed to this chemical, the source of the chemical should be eliminated up front and washing the affected eye with plenty of clean water, and then approach suitable medical care.

As for the treatment to nicotine poisoning, you should approach medical care as early as possible. Start applying cold water on the face of the victim that will keep them conscious. However, don’t force them to vomit or walk. Likewise, application of antacids or other self-medications are not solicited. It will support the treatment, if you can gather information or the sample of the specific product that is the culprit in the specific case. This will enable the medical care provider to decide on the most suitable treatment, without wasting time.
From the discussion made above, it comes out that the outcome of poisoning of nicotine can turn brutal, and hence the best way to stay safe will be to give up the habit of consuming nicotine in all forms. This step will come especially effective, when you have infants in your home. Even if you cannot give up addictions to nicotine completely, try to keep the addiction within control. Your health is the most precious resource that you have got , and hence you are responsible for taking adequate care of it.


Principles Of Clinical Toxicology
Book By: Thomas A Gossel
Published: 1994
Nicotine Safety & Toxicity
Book By: Neal L. Benowitz
Published: 1998
Handbook of Drug Interactions: A Clinical & Forensic Guide
Book By: Ashraf Mozayani and ‎Lionel Raymon
Published: 2003
Case Study: How much nicotine kills a human?
Archives of Toxicology Journal
By: Bernd Mayer
Year: 2014
Case Study: Bad news about an old poison. A case of nicotine poisoning due to both ingestion & injection
Emergency Care Journal
By: Gianfranco Cervellin, Michele Luci and Giuseppe Lippi
Year: 2013
Case Study: Nicotine Poisoning as a Cause of Cardiac Arrest?
Journal of Toxicology
By: Pascale Sanchez, Jean-Louis Ducassé and Maryse Lapeyre-Mestre
Year: 2008


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