Friday, 13 July 2012

Reasons for False Positives on Nicotine Test

One of the ways to check for presence of nicotine in the body is through a blood test. The presence of nicotine in blood can be a sign that the individual smokes. There are some blood tests that measure cotinine, a chemical produced from nicotine in the body, instead of nicotine. Some blood tests measure the level of nicotine or cotinine in the blood while some other tests give a positive or negative report according to some predetermined levels for these chemicals in blood.

Reasons for false nicotine positives
There can be a number of reasons why an individual can test positive for a nicotine blood test. Reasons range from diet to other medications to environment to human errors in labs. Some details about why your blood test may throw up a false positive are given below.
  • Diet: The American Academy of Insurance Medicine has found that foods like mustard, broccoli, almonds and cabbage, if consumed before a blood test can lead to a false positive for nicotine. They increase the level of thiocyanate in the body which leads to these faulty results
  • Environment: People who work in the area of metal refining or other similar environments which have high levels of metals can have increased levels of thiocyanate in the body. This can throw up a false positive for nicotine
  • Medications: Some medications like THC, amphetamines and a few others can also lead to a false nicotine positive.
  • Nicotine products: People especially on cessation programs use nicotine gums and patches which might indicate a positive in blood, although this is not a false positive. If the doctor is unaware of the cessation program, it might falsely indicate smoking
  • Errors: Even though most major labs take utmost care to avoid mix ups in blood samples and test results, human errors do happen, sometimes leading to a false positive for nicotine in blood
These blood tests to determine the presence or absence of nicotine in blood are done for a number of purposes. They could be for a health insurance, as part of medical tests for a company or for a smoking cessation program.

Will Nicotine Show up in a Blood Test?

Nicotine is a substance that is addictive. It is found in tobacco and tobacco products. It is a neuro-toxin that is detected by the body as soon as it is taken into the body. It enters the blood stream very quickly and spreads throughout the body including the brain.

How is a nicotine blood test done?
There are both qualitative and quantitative blood tests for nicotine. They detect the presence or absence of as well as the levels of nicotine in blood. Along with nicotine, they also test for cotinine, a biological compound of nicotine, and anabasine, a product contained in tobacco products.

It may be part of a complete series of blood profiling tests or may be done individually. This test may be done for insurance purposes, for treating health disorders or even as part of tobacco cessation programs.

Will nicotine show up in blood tests?

If a person uses tobacco products like cigarettes, smokeless tobacco or snuff, or uses other nicotine products like nicotine patches or gum, he/she will have nicotine in his/her system. This nicotine will show up in a blood test, usually up to 1-3 days after the last usage of nicotine-containing products. This time frame is variable according to the amount of nicotine use/abuse, the individual's health and age.

Sometimes tests can throw up false positives. Some factors like certain food products, medications and chemicals present in the environment can increase levels of thiocyanate in the body. This can, in turn, throw up false positives for nicotine in blood tests.

Nicotine will show up in blood tests only if the test is being done to check for presence of nicotine or other drugs. In case of general blood tests, the doctors may not even check for the presence of other substances unless specifically asked to do so.

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