What is Nicotine Poisoning?

Nicotine is found in the roots and leaves of various plants, most commonly in tobacco. Most people don’t know but nicotine is actually highly toxic, even more than cocaine and is highly controlled and regulated by the government. To achieve a lethal dose of cigarettes a person must smoke about 40 cigarettes at once or chew 15 pieces of nicotine gum at once. The majority of poisoning cases are ones in which children mistakenly think a pack of nicotine is gum or liquid nicotine is candy. Outright poisoning in adults usually  happens when a person is intentionally poisoned through a drink.

Nicotine in Cigarettes

Health consequences of smoking are well documented. Cigarettes cause lung cancer, heart disease and stroke. It also causes lung infections, an increased risk of allergies and asthma, COPD and numerous other health issues. Many of the issues are caused by nicotine. Most of tobacco’s dangers stem from smoke and chemical additives found in cigarettes. Nicotine, as a stimulant, may increase blood pressure. However it is not the most dangerous aspect as nicotine is highly addictive. Other sources of nicotine poisoning may come from:

E-cigarettes: nicotine in refills may contain high levels of substance. The safety limits cited by CDC may be overstated and most e-cig refills do not contain enough nicotine to kill an adult vaping normally. Most e-cigs do not contain enough nicotine to kill an adult vaping normally.

Nicotine gum and patches: if one piece of gum, several must be better which is usually the thought. Nicotine gum is not the same as gum found on the candy aisle. Failure to follow package or doctor’s instructions could lead to a nicotine overdose. Gums and patches are nicotine products and must be kept away from children.

Symptoms of Overdose

Nicotine poisoning tends to produce symptoms in a pattern. First symptoms can include stimulating effects including:

  • Vomiting
  • Hypertension
  • Headaches
  • Excessive salivation
  • Seizures
  • Muscular weakness
  • Central nervous system depression
  • Paralysis
  • Coma
  • Respiratory failure

In 2014, more than 50 percent of nicotine poisoning cases occurred in children under the age of 6. Children and toddlers in contact with e-cigarettes and liquid nicotine become ill quickly and exhibit symptoms. It is harmful to kids and may cause death.


The best way to prevent overdose is to stay away from nicotine products. The reality is nicotine use is part of a culture of consumption and is readily available in many homes. Liquid nicotine should be kept away from kids for their safety. Medical attention must be sought immediately if a child or other person is overexposed to nicotine or liquid nicotine.


Nicotine poisoning can be tackled by use of activated charcoal in a bid to lower gastrointestinal absorption. Activated charcoal is effective as it binds nicotine while it cycles between the liver and digestive tract during metabolism. The management of seizures through use of benzos intravenously can be another mode of treatment. Respiratory failure may require mechanical ventilation.
The Villa helps individuals struggling with nicotine addiction. If you are concerned about yours or a family member’s nicotine use, call us to find out how we can help you get support to get from addiction to recovery.