A mentally ill man from the Netherlands died after drinking a very strong nicotine solution. It’s not clear if the bipolar victim committed suicide.
The case study was published in the Nederlands Tijdschrift voor Geneeskunde (the Dutch Journal of Medicine). The authors are doctors and a pharmacist from Dutch hospitals.
The man was brought to the hospital after suffering cardiac arrest. Before arriving at the intensive care unit, the man’s heart had stopped, but he was revived by EMT’s in the ambulance with cardiac massage and an adrenaline shot.
When he reached intensive care, the level of nicotine in his blood was 3 mg per liter. According to the paper, typical blood-nicotine level for a smoker is 0.01-0.05 mg / L. He was stabilized and kept alive, but died eight days later of postanoxic encephalopathy, neurological damage caused by the brain being deprived of oxygen during the nicotine-induced cardiac arrest.
It’s unclear how the measure of nicotine in the blood relates to a lethal dose of nicotine. According to Prof. Bernd Mayer of the University of Graz (Austria), a fatal dose for an adult is likely 0.5 g (500 mg) or more of ingested nicotine.
The man drank 450 mg/mL (45 percent) nicotine — 150 times as strong as 3 mg/mL e-liquid. Home DIY juice makers rarely use a solution stronger than 100 mg/mL (10 percent). This was a dangerous product for a non-professional to handle, and certainly deadly to drink. The authors estimate that the man drank “a few milliliters” of the nicotine.
It is unlikely that an adult would die from drinking standard commercial e-liquid. Because of the relatively low concentration of nicotine, it would be extremely difficult to swallow enough for a fatal dose before vomiting up most of it. High-strength nicotine solution — while even more unpleasant to drink — is so concentrated that enough nicotine to kill might be absorbed before the vomiting reflex is activated.