When uses tobacco in any form, such as cigarettes, cigars, smokeless tobacco, spit tobacco, and/or snuff, nicotine is passed into the body which is metabolizes into cotinine in the liver, lungs, and other organs. In addition to nicotine, cotinine is also considered as a reliable indicator and biomarker of nicotine use and can be detected via varied tests such as hair tests, urine tests, blood tests, and saliva tests.
Determining the length of time that cotinine stays in the system is dependent on a variety of factors such as the type of cotinine test that is conducted and the patient’s body mass, metabolic rate, age, physical activity, hydration levels, and underlying health conditions. Thus, it is quite difficult to assign a limit to the amount of time that this alkaloid can be detected in the system. Some tests can detect the component for up to ten days, while other tests can detect cotinine presence in the system for nearly 90 days or more. It is estimated that saliva and urine tests can detect cotinine for about 1 to 3 days, hair follicle cotinine drug test can confirm its presence for about 3 months.
The form of tobacco, i.e., cigarettes, snuff, etc., as well as the level of tobacco use are other factors which play a role in determine the length of time cotinine stays in the system. In light smokers, cotinine and its levels can be detected for 2 to 3 days; in medium smokers for around 5 days; and in heavy or addicted smokers, for 10 days or more. Cotinine can remain in the system for more than 10 days in people who chew tobacco.
Tests used to determine cotinine in your system
The three major tests used to determine cotinine in the body are the cotinine urine test, the blood test, and the saliva test.
The cotinine urine test
Varied urine tests for detection of cotinine in the system are readily available and sold without a prescription. Hence, it is the most common and most widely used test to detect cotinine presence in the system. The urine test strip in dipped into a sample of urine collected by the patient for about five minutes. The result of this test can be either negative or positive. The cutoff level accepted as being the standard is 200ng/ml of nicotine.
How long does cotinine stay in your urine?
After nicotine enters the body, it gets metabolized into cotinine and is eventually eliminated from the body along with other waste matter via urine. The cotinine urine test will detect the levels of the toxin and other derivatives of nicotine for about 3 to 4 days after last known use of nicotine-containing products. This detection time frame may however differ in some cases. If menthol cigarettes are being smoked, then cotinine may take longer to be expelled from the system, while the test results can remain positive for nearly 15 to 20 days in case of passive smokers.
The cotinine blood test
Quantitative as well as qualitative blood tests can be used to detect cotinine presence in the system. The test can help determine the occurrence of cotinine, its levels, and/or its absence in the blood sample. Cotinine blood tests are sensitive and can detect even minor traces of the chemical in the bloodstream.
How long does cotinine stay in your blood?
After nicotine gets metabolized into cotinine, it mixes with the blood. The toxins are then removed from the blood via liver detoxification processes. These processes are relatively slower than the waste removal processes performed by the kidneys.
Cotinine is usually detected in the blood tests for 1 to 3 days after last use of products containing nicotine like snuff, cigarettes, nicotine gum or patches, etc. This detection time frame can differ as per the intensity of nicotine use, the person’s age, and other factors as discussed above. Comparatively, the levels of cotinine can remain detectible in the blood for 1 to 10 days, before they cannot be detected any more.
In addition to lab errors, there are many factors which can give false positive results in cotinine blood tests. Some of the known reasons include intake of foods with thiocyanate content such as broccoli, cabbage, mustards, and almonds; jobs at metal refining plants with excess presence of thiocyanate; and use of drugs like amphetamines.
The cotinine saliva test
It is the most preferred and most accurate of all the cotinine tests. Not only does it eliminate the need to gather blood or urine samples, but also offers information about the estimated quantity of tobacco used. The test can even detect nicotine levels of 0 to 2,000ng/ml, which is far lower than the capacity of the urine tests.
In this, a saliva cotinine test strip is soaked into a saliva specimen provided by the patient for about 20 minutes. The reaction of the saliva strip with cotinine helps ascertain the quantity of nicotine used as well as the varied levels of cotinine in the system.
How long does cotinine stay in your saliva?
The half-life of cotinine is longer than that of nicotine. It remains detectible in saliva for over ten hours, and sometimes for 2 to 4 days.
Drinking lots of water, regular exercising, and eating and healthy and balanced diet which includes foods like egg yolk, garlic, and onions can help clear cotinine from the body.