Vaping and Nicotine Overdosing – The lowdown

We all know nicotine is addictive. That’s why so many people get hooked on smoking cigarettes and find it so hard to quit. They miss the feeling of holding the cigarette and smoking one at certain times of the day, but you can be sure they miss the hit of nicotine they got from each one, too.

But can you overdose on nicotine?

In short, yes. If you overdose on nicotine, you could experience a range of symptoms including headaches, abdominal cramps, weakness, confusion and depression. You could even fall into a coma if the level of poisoning is severe. The advice given to anyone who suspects they or someone else is suffering from nicotine poisoning is to get urgent medical assistance. That should tell you how serious the condition is.

We’ve researched information about a lethal dose of nicotine and the consensus is that anything upwards of 30mg has the potential to kill someone. Most sources give a range of between 30mg and 60mg. however, we can’t be 100% sure this is accurate. In fact, the source of that information is thought to be an age-old textbook. And when we say age-old, we mean over a century old. If that’s the case, we may have been misled for years.

Of course, most sensible people know smoking is bad for you in all kinds of nasty ways. But what about vaping? Public Health England recently announced their belief that it was around 90% safer than smoking. Additionally, vaping has become the most popular method for helping someone quit smoking. Many people have quit successfully by switching to vaping, which can still deliver a measured hit of nicotine without all the other nasties you get in the average cigarette.

How much nicotine is in the average e-liquid?

You can happily buy e-liquids with no nicotine included. Some people buy the highest strength they can to start with, and then gradually reduce to weaker strengths over time. You might wonder why you’d vape something with no nicotine in it, but if you miss the feeling of having a cigarette in your hand, you’ll understand why. Vaping fills this need, so there’s nothing to say you should continue vaping using e-liquids that have nicotine in them.

Anyone who is vaping should take care to keep their e-liquids out of the reach of children. They’re not meant to be drunk, and anyone who did decide to drink them would be ingesting a far higher level of nicotine than was designed to be the case. But let’s assume for a moment you’ve just quit smoking and you’ve bought an e-liquid with the highest-possible level of nicotine included in it. If you sat and vaped your way through the entire thing in one sitting, you might have a few problems. However, we can’t say we’ve ever come across anyone who has suffered nicotine poisoning from vaping. It doesn’t happen regularly with smokers, so vapers are even less likely to be affected.

Nicotine’s half-life

Yep, nicotine has a half-life. That means half of it will disappear from the body in roughly two hours, as per information gleaned from the Mayo Clinic laboratory. Let’s suppose you inhaled 10mg of nicotine, just to choose a nice round figure. In a couple of hours, half of that amount of nicotine would have left the body. This makes sense, since anyone addicted to smoking will find they need another cigarette very soon after finishing the first one they took to get rid of that urge they woke up with.

Now, if nicotine had a half-life of, say, 24 hours, it would be far easier to poison yourself with it. Since it would stay in your body for a lot longer, you’d have far more time to smoke more (or vape more, given our interest in the topic) and there would be a higher chance of poisoning yourself with it. So, if it had a half-life of 24 hours as per our example, it would reduce by half over the course of an entire day and not just a couple of hours.

Remember those symptoms

Given the fast-acting metabolism of nicotine, we can see it’s difficult to imagine how someone could vape themselves towards nicotine poisoning. Let’s say you used the highest concentrate of e-liquid you could find and vaped continuously for hours. Even then, most people who have done the maths agree you wouldn’t get anywhere near enough nicotine in your system to beat that half-life into submission.

So, do vapers have anything to worry about? If you’re switching from smoking to vaping, you’re going to be improving your health. Let’s not forget you would have been taking in a lot of nicotine when you were smoking, especially if you had a seriously-heavy habit. Few people vape constantly and even those who do it regularly throughout the day won’t get anywhere near suffering any of the symptoms associated with nicotine poisoning.

Also, let’s remember that getting nicotine poisoning from vaping is entirely different to accidentally drinking several vials of e-liquid. If anyone did that, they’d be getting a huge hit of nicotine in one go – and you couldn’t come close to doing that if you vaped with the e-liquid. So, accidental ingestion looks like being the only realistic way of overdosing – and we’re assuming no one wants to achieve that.

Let’s get back to those symptoms, too – headaches, abdominal cramps, weakness, confusion and depression. We can add the likes of nausea, convulsions, agitation and a burning feeling in the mouth to that lovely list too. Now, since you’d be vaping regularly over the course of the day, as you usually do, you think you’d notice if you started getting any of those symptoms. Even if you didn’t immediately associate them with nicotine poisoning, they’d get worse every time you vaped, wouldn’t they?

You may have had the odd occasion where you felt slightly nauseous from smoking or vaping too much. If that’s the case, you’ll know what you usually do – you stop vaping for a while. The feeling soon goes, as we’re now aware of because of the half-life information we learned above. If you feel sick, you’re probably not going to want to vape anyway, so the problem has a habit of resolving itself.

Vape with confidence

A significant chunk of vapers will never experience nausea or any other problems that stem from nicotine. If you ever spill any of your e-liquid on your skin, you should always clean it off straightaway to be on the safe side. And if you did start feeling sick or getting any of the symptoms mentioned above, stop vaping. If they don’t go, it might be time to seek medical advice.

Many studies have found vaping to be safer than smoking, even though it still involves nicotine. The choice of strengths available does make it easier to control what you inhale, too.

What’s your view on nicotine poisoning? Are you surprised the official figures for the amount you’d need to ingest to be poisoned are taken from a century-old textbook? Have you ever experienced any symptoms like the ones mentioned above when smoking or vaping? Let us know your thoughts below.