Do you need to take a test to determine if you've been smoking tobacco? Many states still allow employers to perform tobacco screenings as part of their hiring practices, and insurance companies may discriminate against smokers.
If you would rather not lose out because you indulge in a perfectly legal habit, you've probably thought about a cotinine detox. How can you do this? How long will it take? What do you need to succeed?
How long does a cotinine detox take?
You usually hear about nicotine rather than cotinine in connection with smoking. This is because it's merely a breakdown product of nicotine. There's little point in testing for nicotine, though, because with its two-hour half-life, it very quickly leaves the body. In contrast, cotinine has a much longer half-life of 17-20 hours.
This means a typical urine test for cotinine can usually detect tobacco use in the last 2-4 days. This only applies to immunoassay strips, however, which are not very accurate. A more expensive GC-MS test could possibly detect tobacco use from ten days ago.
There are also saliva tests for tobacco use, and some of these are also very sensitive with a potential ten-day detection window. In short, the detection window is four days for cheaper urine tests, and over a week for the more expensive tests.
A cotinine detox is all about getting enough cotinine out of your body, so you'll be below the threshold concentration needed to trigger a fail.
What does a cotinine detox involve?
Firstly, it means not smoking at all. Even having the occasional cigarette will set back your detox drastically. You need to do this for at least a few days before your test if you're taking a urine immunoassay test, but you'll need a week or more for a blood, saliva, or GC-MS urine test.
This is when the withdrawal symptoms will also be at their worst, and to make matters worse, you will not even be able to use nicotine-replacement products like patches and gums, because these will also introduce cotinine into your system. If you do use a stop-smoking product, make sure it's nicotine free. For example, a 7-day detox course can support your detox and help smooth out some of the negative effects of quitting smoking.
Can you do a cotinine detox without stopping smoking?
You could follow the lead of weed smokers and get a detox drink to prepare for a urine cotinine test. This shouldn't be regarded as a full detox but rather a temporary cleansing of your urinary system. Over about an hour, the drink will basically accelerate your urinary system's usual detox process and flush out impurities like cotinine from your bladder. You'll then have about four or five hours to give a urine sample and pass your test.
You can also get special detox mouthwashes that are also suitable for saliva cotinine tests. You simply need to swish them around your mouth for a few minutes just before your test.
It's also helpful to abstain from smoking for as long as possible before your test. It's hard of course, but try to keep it the minimum.