Does Nicotine Show Up On A Drug Test?

Nicotine is not an illegal drug, so it is not typically a drug that officials are looking for when they drug test someone. However, some people still may have their reasons on why they do not want nicotine to show up in their system.

Nicotine is most commonly found in tobacco and vaping products. The chemical is also used as a pesticide and insecticide. It can be found in many other things such as medications, cleaning supplies, cosmetics, and even foods like coffee beans.

What Does Nicotine Do To Your Body?

When you smoke or vape, the nicotine enters your bloodstream and travels through your body. But does this mean that it will show up on a drug test? Let’s find out. 

What Is A Drug Test? 

A drug test can be taken either with urine, saliva, or blood. All three of these tests are designed to detect drugs, including prescription medication, alcohol, and illegal substances. They are extremely reliable and will often pick up any traces of drugs in your system. 

Yes, this does include nicotine. As nicotine enters your body, it breaks down into many different chemicals such as cotinine. This is another chemical, along with nicotine, that can be detected on most drug tests. 

Cotinine stays in your system for longer than nicotine, so even if the latter is all detoxed from your body, nicotine use might still show up on a drug test because of the cotinine.

This chemical is also only found in the body once it has processed nicotine, so there is no other explanation as to why it would be in your body other than nicotine usage. 

Nicotine In The Body

The half-life of nicotine is around two hours. This refers to how long it takes for half of the amount of nicotine in your system to break down. Once this happens, it leaves your body and is no longer detectable. 

This means that if you stop smoking cigarettes or vaping, then you should expect to see less nicotine in your system over time. If you continue to use nicotine, however, you will still see more nicotine in your system compared to before you stopped using it. 

As nicotine is found in smoking products such as cigarettes, tobacco, and vapes, most of the chemical is absorbed through the lungs. However, some nicotine can be absorbed through the membranes of the mouth.

If you enjoy chewing tobacco or other nicotine products such as gums, patches, or lozenges, it can also be absorbed through the skin or the gastrointestinal tract. 

Once it has been absorbed into your body the nicotine will then be taken to your liver where it metabolizes. It can also do this in the kidneys and lungs, but most will take place in the liver. 

Nicotine leaves your body through urine and the kidneys, although some can also be expelled through bowel movements. Traces can also be found in your hair and saliva. 

Drug Testing For Nicotine

Most drug tests don’t test for nicotine directly, but they will test for cotinine. Cotinine is a byproduct of nicotine metabolism.

It is usually tested for when people have smoked or vaped recently. If you have used nicotine recently, cotinine will be detectable within your hair, urine, blood, and saliva. 

To test positive on a drug test for cotinine, you would need to have a level of 10 ng/mL or higher within your system. This is set to be up to 30 times higher than what a non-smoker who has been exposed to secondhand smoke would have in their body. 

So, if you’re thinking of using the secondhand smoke excuse when your drug test comes back positive – don’t. 

Now we’ll take a deeper look into each of the four ways that cotinine can be detected in the body through drug testing. 


Hair follicle testing isn’t usually the preferred method of drug testing, but it can be done to detect a wide range of substances, including cotinine. Nicotine can be detected within the hair for much longer than some of the other tests. 

Testing hair follicles is a more expensive way of drug testing, though, which is why it’s not very common. It requires only a small amount of hair and can test for nicotine use within the last 90 days. The results take longer to come back, too, taking between one and five days. 


Urine is a much more common way of drug testing because it is simple and quick. The amount of cotinine found in your urine will depend on how many nicotine products you’ve used recently.

The more nicotine you’ve used, the higher the concentration of cotinine in your urine will be. 

Cotinine doesn’t tend to stick around in urine, as this is how it is expelled from the body in the first place. Once you’ve used a nicotine product, you’ll have three days before it’s out of your system and not detectable through urine sampling anymore. 

However, regular smokers might find that cotinine stays in their urine for up to 20 days. Of course, if you’re a regular smoker and show no signs of stopping, cotinine will always be detectable within your urine.

Urine drug tests can be done both in a lab or at home, and the results often come back within 24 hours. However, it can take up to five days in uncommon cases.  


Blood drug testing tends to be the most accurate and the most extensive, as it can detect many more substances in the bloodstream. If you have used a nicotine product, a blood test would find nicotine, cotinine, and anabasine. 

While nicotine is only detectable in the blood for 24 hours, cotinine will stick around for up to three weeks. Blood is drawn and sent to a lab, and the results could take up to 10 days to come back. 


Nicotine is only presented in the saliva for 24 hours, while cotinine can be detected in the saliva for up to 14 days after use. This test is done with a swab inside the mouth and the results will come back within 3 days. 

This test is not the most accurate and there are many variables that can affect it, which is why it is not commonly conducted. 

Can You Get A False Positive On A Drug Test For Cotinine?

It is possible to get a false positive result for cotinine due to other sources besides smoking. These include:

Using nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) like gum, patch, or lozenge. NRT contains nicotine which can cause a high level of cotinine in your system.

Taking medications containing codeine. Codeine is an opiate similar to morphine. The combination of codeine and nicotine can increase the levels of both in your system.

Taking certain supplements like St John’s wort. St John’s wort contains compounds called hyperforins. When combined with nicotine these compounds can increase the amount of cotinine in the body.

Using caffeine. Caffeine increases the amount of cotinine in your bloodstream.

Taking certain prescription drugs. Some prescription drugs contain ingredients that can affect the way your body processes nicotine.


The best way to avoid getting caught by a drug test is to stop using tobacco completely. You should also make sure that any nicotine replacement therapies you use do not contain nicotine. 

Nicotine can be detected in your body through hair, urine, blood, and saliva. If you’ve used a nicotine product recently and are about to be drug tested, there isn’t much you can do to avoid getting caught out.

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