Can you overdose on nicotine?
Full stop: absolutely. A nicotine OD is no joke.
A nicotine overdose, also known as nicotine poisoning, is a real thing.
If you’re currently vaping or smoking cigarettes, take a quick time out and figure out your nicotine consumption. Not later. Now. For real.
Understanding how much nicotine enters your body with each hit isn’t hard.
It’ll be quick and painless. It could save you a trip to the ER. It may even save your life.
What is nicotine poisoning?
When you overdose on nicotine and ingest more than your body can safely process, this toxicity is referred to as nicotine poisoning.
In school, you might have been told how toxic tobacco products can be for kids. It makes sense that smaller amounts of any dangerous substance can be worse for smaller humans. More often than not, nicotine poisoning cases happen to younger children as opposed to adults.
Nicotine itself isn’t carcinogenic [LINK], but having too much nicotine can cause serious health problems.
While nicotine poisoning for adults may be rare and generally not fatal, understanding the symptoms and your own limits is critical.
Symptoms of having too much nicotine
Initial symptoms of having too much nicotine may include:
- Loss of appetite
More serious cases of significant nicotine overdose may lead to the following symptoms:
- Difficulty breathing
- Low blood pressure
- Respiratory failure
How is nicotine poisoning treated?
Have you ever had a pet eat or drink something they weren’t supposed to? When you took them to the vet, they likely received activated charcoal. This treatment is often given because foreign drugs and toxins bind to the activated charcoal, forcing them out of the body.
This treatment works the same in humans. The powder form of activated charcoal is combined with a liquid and given in ERs to commonly treat drug overdoses or toxic poisoning.
Because the charcoal must make its way through your digestive tract, it is not effective unless given within 30-60 minutes of the overdose. Otherwise, the substantial amount of nicotine will have already reached your bladder, making this treatment ineffective.
What if activated charcoal doesn’t work? Here’s a few medical treatments that are given to people who severely overdose on nicotine:
- For those experiencing seizures, a drug called benzodiazepine and IV fluids
- When your heart rate is slowed down, atropine is often used
- If oxygen is no longer flowing and your lungs aren’t able to breathe on their own, a ventilator machine can be used, and a doctor may insert a small tube through a hole in your neck to help you breathe
Respiratory failure? Yeah, this whole thing sounds pretty crappy to deal with. It’s worth it to understand how much is too much nicotine for you.
How do I figure out the amount of nicotine I use in a day?
There isn’t a “one size fits all” solution when it comes to figuring out how much nicotine is safe for you. Criteria include age, body weight, gender, and other factors, including how long you’ve been using nicotine products.
The average cigarette contains between 7.5 and 13.4 milligrams of nicotine.
Vape e-liquids range from 0mg (containing no nicotine, although uncommon) to 24mg of regular nicotine, or 1.5 to 60mg of nicotine salts. E-cigs have additional dangers, including spilling liquid nicotine from cartridges onto your skin or in your eye.
While these may sound high, your body only absorbs about one-tenth of the nicotine in a cigarette.
How much is too much nicotine?
Now that you’ve done the math on how much nicotine you consume per day, you’re probably wondering what that looks like against public health recommendations.
For decades, the standard used by academic sources, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and nearly all safety warnings you find have stated that the lethal dose of nicotine for adults is 30-60mg. This would mean a fatal nicotine overdose could occur after consuming just five cigarettes! The same equivalent would be 10 ml of a diluted nicotine solution.
A 2014 article from the Archives of Toxicology challenges the CDC’s recommendation, citing that they actually came from a 1969 study that only studied nicotine toxicity in mice and rats, not humans. The author concludes that while nicotine may be a toxic compound, overwhelming data indicates that at least 0.5 grams, or 500 milligrams, is a more accurate measurement of the amount of nicotine required to kill an adult.
As vaping continues to rise in popularity, more people are concerned about the unknown dangers it presents. Specifically, how much nicotine you can safely use from an e-cig without experiencing serious health effects.
There have been documented cases of adults dying after ingesting vape juice, including to a 2016 study. While not linked to nicotine consumption, the authors also mention serious mechanical injury experienced from e-cig batteries malfunctioning, products overheating, or using an incorrect battery charger. Consequences have included fires, explosions, severe injuries, burns, or death.
One possible conclusion is that when you consume an unsafe amount of nicotine for your body, the first symptom you experience is significant vomiting. When you’re puking your guts up, it’s hard to keep chugging vape juice and suffer very serious consequences, including dying from an overdose.
How we design nicotine lozenges and gum with nicotine dosage in mind
Building up a heavy nic vape habit, or consuming more than you anticipated, can have toxic consequences.
At LUCY, we’re dedicated to reducing tobacco-related harm to zero. We believe cigarettes are the problem, and nicotine can be part of the solution.
If you’re interested in cutting down your nicotine intake, our chew and park gum is a great solution to curb your cravings. Our product contains 4mg nicotine in each piece and flavors you’ll actually enjoy. Nicotine lozenges are another alternative to help you quit smoking.
We don’t want you to end up in the ER with a nicotine OD. We’ve designed our products to put you back in the driver’s seat. Unlike with cigarettes, we want you to be in control of how much nicotine is too much for you.
Please note this content is strictly for informational purposes only, not medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Please speak with your medical doctor regarding any medical concerns.