Smoking cigarette

The effects of nicotine on your body and mental health

Smoking cigarettes is almost a trend in some people’s lives. That said, you could be surprised at how long nicotine stays in your system. So if you were trying to stop smoking or simply looking for general information, we got you covered with this complete guide.

What happens when you smoke a cigarette?

After inhaling the smoke, the nicotine, which is the main compound in cigarettes, will go directly to your bloodstream, brain, lung, and liver. As nicotine acts as a stimulant, it will force your brain to release happy chemicals. This is the reason why you feel relaxed and become more active while smoking, which could be the main addictive feature of the cigarette.

In order to get rid of nicotine, your body will break it down and transform it into “Cotinine”. After that, the substance will be transferred to the kidneys responsible for cleaning all wastes and toxins from the body. The complete cleansing process may take around 3 months or more depending on the individual.

What are the effects of smoking cigarettes on your mental health?

It’s been proven by many studies over the years that cigarettes and nicotine have a number of bad effects on not only your body but also your brain. As we previously mentioned just above, nicotine gives an almost immediate feeling of being relaxed. Also, it can reduce stress and anxiety. The major problem is that these effects are temporary and eventually lead to withdrawal symptoms and intense cravings.

What are the factors that affect the nicotine cleansing process?

Once you’re addicted to cigarettes, getting rid of all traces of nicotine found in your body can become a difficult process. When nicotine is turned into cotinine, the latter can last in your body anywhere from 2 days to several months, depending on the following factors:

Frequency of smoking

First and foremost, the most important factor is how often you smoke, including the amount of nicotine you consumed. The more you smoke, the longer the toxins stay in your system. Here is the estimated time that your body needs to flush out the traces of nicotine according to your smoking behavior:

  • If you smoke 1 time/week, you are considered a light user so the nicotine can naturally be removed within a few days after smoking.
  • If you smoke around 2-3 times/week, you are in the moderate user category.
  • If you puff on a cigarette every day, you are a heavy user. In this case, although you have already stopped using tobacco, the traces of nicotine may remain in your system for a year.

Your body condition

Although the human body relatively consumes nicotine at a similar rate from one person to another, the cleansing process could take more or less time, depending on the following:

  • Age: Young people tend to eliminate the toxins faster than older people.
  • Gender: According to research from the NCBI website, the body of Caucasians and Hispanics tend to take less time in eliminating nicotine than Asian-Americans or African-Americans.
  • Sex hormones: It is presumed that women, particularly during pregnancy, can metabolize nicotine faster than men.
  • Liver function: Of course, the efficiency of your liver function indeed influences the toxin purification process


Last but not least, another factor that you should consider is the medications you are taking. Some of them possibly decelerate the metabolism of nicotine, for example, antifungals or medicines for high blood pressure. On the other hand, antibiotics and phenobarbitals can boost the process.

How long does cotinine stay in your blood?

Normally the nicotine will stay in your blood for 1-3 days. Nevertheless, when it becomes cotinine, the latter is detectable for up to 10 days after consumption. For blood testing, there are mainly 2 test types, including:

  • A qualitative test can show whether you have nicotine/cotinine in your blood or not.
  • A quantitative test is used to determine the amount of nicotine, cotinine, and other breakdown products in the blood.

How long does cotinine stay in your urine?

Once the nicotine is absorbed into your bloodstream, we will calculate it in nanograms per milliliter (ng/ml). In general, a smoker has around 10 – 500 ng/ml of cotinine in the body. If you are a light user (or smoke 1 time/week), the cotinine will be eliminated within 4 days approximately, while in a heavy smoker it may take at least 3 weeks to flush the cotinine out.

How long does cotinine stay in your saliva and hair follicles?

Apart from blood and urine, cotinine can stay in your saliva and hair as well. The traces of toxins in saliva will be flushed out in 4 days minimum while the rest can remain in your hair follicles for a year after your last cigarette.

How can you speed up the nicotine cleansing process?

If you want to clear all nicotine/cotinine from your system, you should quit smoking to let your body remove the remaining substances. In order to speed up the process, you may try the following:

  • Stay hydrated:
    Water is essential for the cleansing process since it helps your body remove all toxins, including the traces of nicotine. Thus, it is important to drink enough water daily.
  • Exercise regularly:
    Whether it be cardio or weight training, exercising can boost the metabolism rate and accelerate the cleansing process. Besides, it will also decrease the level of toxins as you sweat.
  • Consume foods high in antioxidants:
    We recommended eating antioxidant foods such as spinach, beans, berries, and much more. They are rich in antioxidants that help improve your metabolism and have lots of vitamins and fibers.

We hope this article helps you better understand the effects of nicotine. In any case, take care of yourself and try to stay away from cigarettes as much as possible.

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