Nicotine or Cotinine Test

Nicotine or Cotinine Test

Specimen Type: Urine or Hair

Your body breaks down nicotine into many chemicals, including cotinine, which can also be detected in certain tests. Cotinine is found in your body if you had nicotine and it stays in the body longer than nicotine itself.

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Nicotine or Cotinine Test

Specimen Type: Urine or Hair

Your body breaks down nicotine into many chemicals, including cotinine, which can also be detected in certain tests. Cotinine is found in your body if you had nicotine and it stays in the body longer than nicotine itself.

Nicotine is a highly addictive substance that is found in all tobacco products, including cigarettes, pipes, cigars, chewing tobacco, and snuff, but many people don't realize that e-cigarettes and vapes fall into this bucket as well.

Why Get Tested?

To detect the presence of and/or measure the quantity of nicotine or its metabolite cotinine in blood, urine, saliva, or sometimes hair; to determine whether someone uses products containing tobacco or nicotine or has been exposed to secondhand smoke; sometimes performed to evaluate for acute nicotine poisoning

When To Get Tested?

Whenever someone requires confirmation of tobacco or nicotine usage or exposure to secondhand smoke; occasionally when nicotine overdose is suspected

How is it used?

Nicotine, and/or its primary metabolite cotinine, is most often tested to evaluate tobacco use.  Because the use of tobacco products can greatly affect the health of individuals, companies may use nicotine/cotinine testing to evaluate prospective employees for tobacco use. Many health and life insurance companies test applicants for nicotine or cotinine as well.

Nicotine and cotinine can both be measured qualitatively or quantitatively. Qualitative testing detects the presence or absence of the substances, while quantitative testing measures the concentration of the substance. Quantitative testing can help distinguish between active smokers, tobacco users who have recently quit, non-tobacco users who have been exposed to significant environmental tobacco smoke, and non-users who have not been exposed.

Cotinine may also be measured in saliva and in hair, although hair testing is primarily used in a research setting, such as a study of non-smokers exposure to tobacco smoke.

A blood or urine nicotine test may be ordered by itself or along with cotinine if a healthcare practitioner suspects that someone is experiencing a nicotine overdose.

When a person has reported that he or she is using nicotine replacement products but is no longer smoking, nicotine, cotinine, and urine anabasine measurements may sometimes be ordered. Anabasine, an alkaloid, is present in tobacco but not in commercial nicotine replacement products. If a sample tests positive for anabasine, then the person is still using tobacco products.

Is there anything else I should know?

Test results based on different samples (blood, urine, saliva) are not interchangeable.

Some pesticides contain high concentrations of nicotine. This can be another source of nicotine poisoning. In fact, nicotine is itself a pesticide sometimes used in "organic" farming as an alternative to organophosphate or pyrethrinoid derivatives.

Nicotine is found not just in the tobacco plant but also in other plants in the same family. These include potatoes, tomatoes, eggplants, and red peppers. The concentration of nicotine in these plants, however, is much lower than that in tobacco. The cutoffs of the nicotine/cotinine tests have been set to discriminate dietary sources of nicotine from tobacco use and second-hand smoking.

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A person's genetic makeup may influence how they metabolize nicotine. Variations in the genes that code for the CYP2A6 and CYP2B6 liver enzymes affect the rate of nicotine metabolism. (For more on this, see our article on Pharmacogenetic Tests.)

Nicotine or Cotinine Test

Nicotine or Cotinine Test

Specimen Type: Urine or Hair

Your body breaks down nicotine into many chemicals, including cotinine, which can also be detected in certain tests. Cotinine is found in your body if you had nicotine and it stays in the body longer than nicotine itself.

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