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Signs, Symptoms, and Treatment of Nicotine Overdose

Updated on September 4, 2016
Symptoms, signs, and treatment of nicotine overdose.
Symptoms, signs, and treatment of nicotine overdose. | Source


By definition: nicotine is a highly addictive central nervous system stimulant. Nicotine behaves in the body much in the way caffeine does, and when used in small doses, it is about as harmless as a cup of coffee. Mainly, it gives you focus and concentration, accelerates your heart and breathing rate, and increases blood pressure.

Too much of anything has the potential to become harmful; most substances should be used in moderation. What makes nicotine different is that it's not easy to control how much you use through sheer willpower. It is highly addictive and therefore difficult to use in moderation. Think twice before using this substance! People say that once you're addicted to nicotine, this substance can be as hard to quit as heroin, if not harder.

The fact that nicotine is so addictive is a big part of why the substance is illegal for minors. It is also possible to overdose on nicotine. Cigarettes, gum, patches, and e-liquid containing nicotine could all potentially cause an overdose if taken in large enough amounts. Never drink e-liquid, and never ever combine smoking with patches, or gum, or any other combination of nicotine-containing products. Doing so could result in death.

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Signs and Symptoms You Have Too Much Nicotine in Your Body

A field of tobacco in bloom. People who harvest tobacco are at the greatest risk of nicotine overdose.
A field of tobacco in bloom. People who harvest tobacco are at the greatest risk of nicotine overdose. | Source

For context, the lethal dose of nicotine has been reported to be between 40 and 60 milligrams. That is a lot of nicotine in one sitting and not easy to accidentally ingest!

A lot of people don't realize that typical overdose from nicotine comes from those that work in fields harvesting tobacco plants, the nicotine enters their bodies through their skin in relatively high doses over a short amount of time. Since most people are not harvesting, you probably don't have to worry about that.

The lethal dose of nicotine has been reported to be between 40 and 60 milligrams.

When smoking a cigarette, only about one milligram of nicotine enters the bloodstream.

What's this now?

However, there are many ways for nicotine to enter the bloodstream, from smoking regularly or vaping e-cigarettes to using chew, patches, or gum. Nicotine can also enter the bloodstream through direct skin contact. Never use nicotine patches other than as directed, and do not combine their use with smoking or other nicotine containing products.

Although approximately 40 to 60 milligrams of nicotine will result in an overdose, you should think of this as more of a ballpark number. Since everyone has a different genetic makeup, there is no way to know with certainty how much it takes to overdose—the amount for one person will be different for another.

Nicotine only makes up approximately 0.6–3.0% of dry weight in tobacco, which is the main ingredient of a tobacco cigarette, primarily because of its addictive qualities. On average, a cigarette manufactured in the United States contains about 9 mg of nicotine, but this is not the amount of nicotine that is ingested by a smoker. When cigarettes are burned, the smoke is inhaled by the user, so the nicotine enters the lungs and absorbs into the body before entering the bloodstream. The amount of nicotine actually entering the body is typically less than 1 mg.

Our bodies give us a lot of warning signs and signals when we are being poisoned. Poisoning from nicotine is generally seen in two stages:

1st Stage

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Sweating
  • Hypertension
  • Tachycardia, or a dangerously fast heart rate
  • Ataxia, or a lack of muscle coordination that may affect speech, eye movements, and the ability to swallow or walk
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Shaking and tremors
  • Seizures

What you'll most likely notice: Dark gums and lips (they possibly will appear purple due to the lack of oxygen in the blood), hearing or vision problems, chest pain, cold sweats, numb, cold fingers or toes, a headache, bad breath (but a lot of people have that!), confusion, anxiety, insomnia, panic attacks, high pulse rate, no appetite, increased blood pressure, fatigue, and general weakness.

2nd Stage

  • Bradycardia
  • Hypotension
  • Central nervous system depression
  • Coma
  • And finally, breathing and respiratory failure

Treatment for a Nicotine Overdose


Treatment for nicotine overdose

Whatever method you are using to administer nicotine to your body, stop. If you even suspect nicotine is making you sick, discontinue use immediately.

For a very mild nicotine sickness, put some sugar under your tongue and let it absorb. Pixie sticks work wonders. Eat one or have a soda. Eat and stay hydrated, drink plenty of good quality water. The sickness should pass quickly.

When the overdose is serious or life-threatening, you need to be a bit more extreme. Call 911 and do the following:

  1. Make sure airways are not blocked or obstructed—you need to be sure the person suffering is able to breathe. Perform first aid. Most lethal doses will kill someone within the first hour of poisoning, so the prognosis is good for anyone that makes it past the first 60 minutes.
  2. If the victim recently ingested nicotine, induce vomiting (if they are not doing so already). Activated charcoal, which binds to drugs and toxins, helping remove them from the body, can also be administered. Activated charcoal should be a first aid staple item. It's best to call a doctor, emergency room, or poison control center before administering the activated charcoal, as they may have better advice.
  3. Help the victim deal with panic, confusion and agitation. Emergency rooms can administer a benzo like Valium or Xanax to help calm the victim down.
  4. If the person has severe salivation or drooling, oral suction can help.
  5. Be prepared for coma or seizures with artificial ventilation. Since people don't typically have artificial ventilation machines on hand, you should be ready to administer CPR. If you don't know CPR, call 911.
  6. When the above measures provide no relief, or if they are not possible to administer, call 911 immediately.

© 2013 Rebecca


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    • Pauline Davenport profile image

      Pauline Davenport 3 years ago from Isle of Man

      This fascinated me. At first I briefly glanced over your Hub Bishop 55, wrongly assuming it to be yet another rant on the perils of smoking - sorry for that.

      I had no idea that the tobacco harvesters were affected in this way. I never even gave it a thought. It would be interesting to see if they smoked wouldn't it?

      Being able to overdose on nicotine is novel too - something else new learned there, although looking back I guess I must have done in the past, having some of the symptoms you describe, either because of a cigarette or wearing a nicotine patch

      Thanks for this- voted up and interesting. Brilliant stuff

    • Bishop55 profile image

      Rebecca 3 years ago from USA

      wow, I loved your feedback! I originally wrote this to tie into a quitting smoking hub, I learned more about nicotine in the process too. Thanks again!

    • profile image

      Never Again 3 years ago

      Never experience such a head rush while standing trying different sample flavors from the vapor cigs. I swear I thought I was going to pass out and had a wave of panic, numbness and tingling, fast heart rate, altittle trouble breathing. I could only tell you it felt (from memory when I was a teen) of being really high on pot. Scared me soooo bad. Even had to call paramedics. I swear I really thought someone put pot or something into the flavor samples. Really, really scary!!!

    • Tammylisacarmen profile image

      Tammy Lisa Carmen 2 years ago from USA

      Thanks for this article. It was helpful to me. I believe I had a slight overdose from e-cigarettes. I am just getting over it. Been vomiting, had the weakness, sweat etc. I didn't link it to the E-smokes at first, but the more I read up on it, I believe that this is what it was. I quit smoking about a month ago, and now I also laid down the Electronic ones.

    • profile image

      Lee 2 years ago

      @ Tammylisacarmen - I've also been using an E-Cig for the last month and this week I've been quite ill. Vomited a few times one night and since then I've just had no energy whatsoever, headaches & dizziness and just not been able to do anything the last 3 days. On a few occasions of refilling the E-Cig I've had some nicotine go onto my fingers which I washed immediately and sometimes when I've gone to take a puff on the e-cig there has been some liquid or something which I've sucked into my mouth.

      I'm usually pretty fit and healthy and rarely get ill, and tracking down what I've done the past few weeks or what I've eaten and the e-cigs has been the only change....?

    • profile image

      bg3300 2 years ago

      You list 4 steps for a serious overdose. The last one being call 911. However, almost no one would be able to perform the first 3 steps, only emergency services or doctors. Most people are not going to be able to secure the airway or provide artificial ventilation. And people other than doctors should not be administering prescription drugs like Xanax and Valium nor do most people just have these on hand.

      I think the only step for dealing with a severe overdose should be to call 911.

    • Bishop55 profile image

      Rebecca 2 years ago from USA

      bg3300, you're probably right. Most people won't have a severe OD though. Usually just become very sick, which will pass. I wanted to put severe symptoms because of all the kids that have access to ecigs now, or ejuice. Thanks for your comment.

    • profile image

      786 eggy 2 years ago

      very helpful i am getting rid of e cig i think i will try the hard way an quit smoking

    • Tammylisacarmen profile image

      Tammy Lisa Carmen 2 years ago from USA

      I got rid of the e cig. I truly believe that this is what it was. I have tried it one last time post my last comment, and ended up in the bathroom again sick, vomiting, stomach cramps and it was awful. I do believe tho that I just lost count and puffed on it too many times. Still, it was so severe that I am done with it. No more smoking, and no more e smokes.

    • Bishop55 profile image

      Rebecca 2 years ago from USA

      Tammy, I've been cigarette free for over a year... I noticed when I switched to the ecig, I never really knew when to "put it down" it's hard when it never burns out. I used it to often, my main issue was my fingers would get cold and numb. It was not very good. I'm almost off this junk completely, but still working on it. I hope the ecig didn't make you sick, but you know your body and it very well could have. Congrats to you on saying no more of any at all!!!

    • profile image

      Austin 2 years ago

      Having this issue right now. I c

    • profile image

      Richard 2 years ago

      If your using e-cigs to give up, I would slowly decrease the nicotine content until you get to 0mg. The other trick is to take those regular 4 minute breaks and use your e-cig then, instead of puffing away endlessly. Finally, be aware of different makes. If you have a bad experience of one, try another. Cheap is not always best.

    • AliciaAH profile image

      Alicia Alarco-Hernandez 2 years ago from Old Bridge, New Jersey

      Interesting, I don't use any from of nicotine but know others who do. Bad habit to break.

    • profile image

      Kam 2 years ago

      Ecigs can be good but you have to be careful. I smoked cigarettes from the age of 14 to 32. I quit cigs 3 times during my life but I would always start them again. I tried ecigs in 2013 but i did not stick with them. I decided to only use ecigs starting in 2014. I bought real kits from online and I began to enjoy vapong very much. After a few months I begin to feel dizzy often so I went to the hospital. I had developed high blood pressure all of a sudden. I began to take blood pressure meds which all worked for a little while then I would have to switch medicine. I finally bought a home blood pressure tester so I could check my pressure any time. I was told that the blood pressure meds were not working because I did not have hypertension but was suffering from stress. The stress pills worked great but some times I would still get sick. My symptoms would always be light headed, dizzy, faint feeling, extremely weak, restlessness, rapid heart beat, rapid pulse, heart palpitations,not being able to sleep, and I even felt so bad 2 times I almost passed out thinking I was gonna have a stroke or heart attack. When I would get extremely sick I would not vape until after a few days I would feel better. I finally put together by using my blood pressure monitor that vaping was causing my problems. When I checked symptoms of nicotine poisoning and nicotine withdrawal they were exactly what I was experiencing. I like vaping but you have to be careful because there is no way of knowing how much nicotine you are getting especially by using variable voltage devices. I’m gonna try 0mg juice to find out if it is safe for me if not I will quit. I not bad mouthing vaping but everyone should be careful and have in mind to eventually decrease the nicotine in their juice until they make it to 0mg and check their blood pressure regularly, because if you consume to much nicotine accidentally you will have no warning all the terrible symptoms will hit you at once. Then the withdrawal symptoms will be just as bad ,and they all last from 1 day to a week in my experience. I love vaping but I will quit if I have to. I love everybody so all be safe and observant so we can make vaping 100 percent safe.

    • profile image

      Deb 2 years ago

      I haven't been able to figure out why I have felt so horrible..I have been smoking for about 40 years..lately I have had severe diarrhea, nausea ( haven't vomited) intermittent high blood pressure, severe sweating, tremors, and blurry vision. I have dramatically increased how much I smoke because of stress. Wow this article opened my eyes. Thanks

    • profile image

      Phil 2 years ago

      So I got a vape pen for x-mas. Got a bottle with it @ 6mg. I didn't really feel it so I went back to the vape shop and got a bottle of 12mg. Puffed on it all day. Didn't realize it was nicotine poisoning until I woke up the next day feeling like crap. I finally ended up puking my guts out later in the evening...

    • Bishop55 profile image

      Rebecca 2 years ago from USA

      Sorry Phil, that sounds awful. I wish I would have had that problem, I started on 30mg didn't feel anything, then tapered down while quitting. I think vaping is a good alternative while quitting, but you never really know when to set it down since you don't stomp it out. Feel better, hope this hub helped you. :)

    • profile image

      lyndon 2 years ago

      I have done some resurch with ecigs if u have a 10ml bottle of 12mg ejuice ur getting 12mg of nic per ml so if u smoke 4 ml of juice ur getting 48mg of nic witch is high enough to be very worryed but if u smoke that throughtout the day ur fine you would only have to be worried if u smoked that in like 1-4 hours or so i used to smoke from age 14-28 im a vapor now i curintly have been vaping for about 5 months now i was at 18mg nic juice and now im at 12mg i vape between 3-5 ml of juice a day that's 36-60mg a day and im fine its only tonight i just got a new mod called a itaste mvp 2.0 and it have varable wattage so i over puffed probly 2ml in the last 30-60 min ànd now im ready to go to bed and im getting a high like feeling nausia with my head feeling like its shaking back and forth so i fig id serch and see and i came here im fine its very mild but great post glad i stoped to read i fig i wouod leave reserch iv done here to help out

    • Bishop55 profile image

      Rebecca 2 years ago from USA

      Thanks for checking this out Lyndon, your comment/research is helpful.

    • profile image

      chickdude 2 years ago

      omg like my nails are yeller.

    • profile image

      jeje 2 years ago

      This is very interesting. I've been vaping for over a year and been working in a vapor shop for just as long. All these symptoms chalk up to what's been going on the past month. Ive been having seizures, super anxiety, shakes, lack of sleep and throwing up about 4 times a day. I don't understand why the symptoms would just start now though? Me and my doctors visits have chalked it up to the amount of major stress I've been going through. So not really sure. Hopefully the blood work will prove the latter because I'm super passionate about helping people stop smoking, being a smoker of 15 years. Good luck to you all!

    • Bishop55 profile image

      Rebecca 2 years ago from USA

      Hi jeje,

      Thanks for your comment. Stress can do really crazy things. It doesn't seem to me that you are having these issues from vaping. Do you drink? Or have you recently quit drinking?

    • profile image

      Ashton 2 years ago

      This helps a lot. I didn't even know overdosing on nicotine was a thing. This happened to me when I was smoking hookah for 3 hours straight. I passed out three times, was having severe muscle spasms, and throwing up. This is a real thing.

    • profile image

      Fernando 2 years ago

      Your article was very helpful, I enjoy vaping but suffered dizziness and fatigue. I guess I had hit the mod too much. Your sugar under the tongue proved very useful.

    • profile image

      Frank 2 years ago

      Friend gave me 23 ml bottle of liquid for my vape. I'm 18 and I Smoked too much of it today and my body went numb on the spot. I also got really dizzy too and my anxiety kicked in. Seriously thought I was dying even though I knew it was impossible. Good luck to anyone who has to go through that too, scared me really badly.

    • surjit4msm profile image

      surjit4msm 2 years ago

      Thank you for sharing the symptoms and treatments of nicotine. I was actually looking for the informative stuff like this. I would definitely recommend this hub to someone in need or lacks knowledge about the nicotine. Thanks again!

    • ncyp13 profile image

      ncyp13 23 months ago

      useful informative nice work

    • profile image

      SeanGauld 23 months ago

      I started using the ECig a number of months ago. I was purchasing the £10 ones. They started leaking in my bag and pocket so I threw it away, had another one, threw that one away too. I was just as good as done with ECigs. Went back on to Cigarettes.

      My dad handed me this Blu Ecig. I tried it and proven to be affective, No leaking, no trouble. I'm still using it on and off but mainly on. The date is now 07 June 2015, been without a cigharette for 3 days now. I know it's early days but I cycle alot and can Deffo' feel it.

      I can sit there and puff away and make myself ill but hey, it's doing me good.

      I don't know where I'd be without the Ecigs. FAB bit of equipment.

    • profile image

      Dougg 23 months ago

      Been vapeing for about 2 years now and got the headaches more than a few times. Now with this new mod, I have had a few chest pains which I'm sure is due to over-vapeing and cloud chasing.

      My next move is to lower my nicotine level.

      Thanks for the write-up....pretty informative.

    • profile image

      DW 23 months ago


    • profile image

      john 23 months ago

      Sorry to hear about the problems you have experienced. I have been vaping for over 3 years, and yes I have had a few headaches before I dropped to 6 or below on nicotine level juice. Now, no more headache or problems (I use about 20-30 ml of juice daily).

      However, my friend who has been vaping for 6 months has also explained that he has had some of the same symptoms expressed above. This got us wondering so we did a bit of digging and found this on wikipedia: "Propylene glycol is used as a humectant (E1520), solvent, and preservative in food and for tobacco products, as well as being one of the major ingredients of the "e-liquid" used in electronic cigarettes along with vegetable glycerin. Propylene glycol is also used in various edible items such as coffee-based drinks, liquid sweeteners, ice cream, whipped dairy products and soda.[8][9] Vaporizers used for delivery of pharmaceuticals or personal care products often include propylene glycol among the ingredients.[5] Propylene glycol is used as a solvent in many pharmaceuticals, includingoral, injectable and topical formulations, such as for diazepam and lorazepam which are insoluble in water.[10]'

      Come to find out, he is sensitive to the PG in the e-liquid, soda, and ice cream. He still vapes, but has transitioned to high vg juices and a dripper and he problems have seem to fade away. Best part is, he is no longer smoking and feels great. Best of luck to all of u, P.S. stay away from gas station e-juice. Pay for the quality juice.

    • profile image

      maxmilian michael 19 months ago

      i thought real cure of nicotine is the use of phenegan and modicate to recover again but modicate has high risk drwasness which can effect your work even study if any one have any medicayion taste which have low drawseness can conctact me

    • profile image

      Lilith 18 months ago

      Thank you so much for this article, yesterday I smoked Ambil, mixed with regular tobacco in an attempt to try making something such as Mapacho. The ambil was made from N. Rustica var mohawk. Anyways long story short I had heard about the Curanderos using mapacho and tobacco tea for their voyages and I got interested myself. The ambil I usually eat in the size of two rice grains, assuming the absorption to be more efficient orally (as with tea) I though using one grain of rice worth of ambil with regular tobacco should be OK. Well not really... Ended up taking one toke and then lying in my bed for 3 hours fearing for my life as my heartbeat went up to 200bpm for a shortwhile (10-20min).

      The most surprising thing is that it didn`t feel like characteristic nicotine high, as of Thuoc Lao or regular tobacco (N. Tabacum), maybe due to the beta-carbolines.

      Anyways, I just wanted to write this as a warning. It`s an efficient poison and can be very interesting but if you`re going to experiment always start really low and be careful. Nicotine poisoning is not fun.

    • profile image

      Sandy 10 months ago

      I know I overdosed on this because I was sure I was dying, heart attack or something like it. I will never touch this thing again not worth the risks.

    • profile image

      Monika 8 months ago

      Thanks for the article! I just spent 10 hours in hospital on the emergency department because of misuse of the e-cigarette. I dont believe I smoked too much of it , but it was leaking and some of the liquid came in with my mouth, I suffered for 9 hours, whole night of vomiting,confusion,headache,dizziness, and god knows what i else. I can say it was the worst night of my life by far. Eventually I was put under a drop in the hospital and a lot of medication to clear it out of my system. So really just want to say be careful everyone , each person can take in a different amount than another.

    • Bishop55 profile image

      Rebecca 8 months ago from USA

      Thanks for your comment Monika, I'm glad to hear you are ok! :)

    • profile image

      Allan 7 months ago

      My wife smokes occasionally because her family has no idea , went to a casino last night and she smoked a pack and a half in 3 hours . Today when she woke up she was so f*#king rude to everyone and my father who was visiting and she doesn't act like this . She is also burning up and has severe aching pain along with foul Oder that is stinking the house up is that normal ... please help

    • profile image

      Catherine 6 months ago

      I stopped smoking six weeks ago I used the clear nicorette patches for the first 3 weeks now I don't use anything but my whole body is so sore

    • profile image

      Rayne 6 months ago

      The pixie stix worked wonders! Had a nicotine lozenge with a too high nicotine and an empty stomach. Thanks for the article!

    • Bishop55 profile image

      Rebecca 5 months ago from USA

      excessive nicotine can cause cardiac arrest or respiratory failure, please don't use both. :(

      It's unlikely with the dose you mentioned, but why take the risk?

    • Bishop55 profile image

      Rebecca 5 months ago from USA

      I'm assuming she was drinking at the casino? Sounds more like a hangover to me sorry. The odor could be from a combo of multiple toxins leaving her body. Mood disturbance is more likely from another substance. Good luck to you, sorry to hear she was so rude, that's never fun.

    • Bishop55 profile image

      Rebecca 5 months ago from USA

      sounds like detox. People forget how many toxins accumulate in our bodies when we smoke for years and years, the body needs time to recover.

      Awesome job on quitting! If it continues you may want to see a doc just to make sure you're not under the weather.

    • Bishop55 profile image

      Rebecca 5 months ago from USA

      Thanks for the comment :) Glad it helped.

    • profile image

      Omg 4 months ago

      You know, this is making everyone freak out about vaping. For those who see this....DONT STOP VAPING BECAUSE OF THIS ARTICLE. Thats not exactly the cause. First of all if your vaping get educated by a worker or friend who uses mods. Mods are the best way to go because the max mg you should go is 6. And most us 3 or under. So inorder for anything to link to vaping with a mod is vaping litterly 24/7. I understand th is article is trying to educate but i belive its scaring people away of a non lethal thing. If you are vaping and dont know much about it then you shouldint have vaped tell you found out. But this is solid info, but vaping wont lead to OD unless one, your using over say 24 to 30 mg nic, and vaping that non stop.

    • profile image

      Jon 3 months ago

      I kinda thought I might be having problems from the nicotine I get real bad hot flashes feel like I'm going to get sick hands shake all the time and I feel like my sugar is super low and get real panicky feeling and makes it hard to swallow food when I'm eating I think a can Of chew a day for several months have made it worse time to start trying to quit

    • profile image

      Maggie 6 weeks ago

      I have quit smoking for 5 months but can't give up the nicotine lozenges especially when I have alcohol

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