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July 2, 20240

Can You Overdose on Nicotine Pouches?

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Jeremy VanOs

Overindulging in anything can have negative consequences. Nicotine pouches are no exception. Having too many ZYNs could result in experiences ranging from mildly unpleasant to unbearably miserable. The latter, however, usually isn’t a concern with typical use (one portion or less per hour). Yes, technically, you could get nicotine poisoning from ZYN, but not by accident. Regardless, it’s unlikely to be life-threatening and can be easily avoided.

This article will explore the symptoms of nicotine poisoning and how it can manifest from nicotine pouch use. If you’re worried about overdosing on ZYN, keep reading to learn about the risks involved and the likelihood of it happening.

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What is nicotine poisoning?

Nicotine poisoning is the result of overexposure to nicotine, which can have toxic effects on the body. You might think of it in terms of alcohol poisoning or sun poisoning—a dramatic (and potentially dangerous) biological response to excessive intake. It can result from the improper use of any nicotine product via inhalation, ingestion, or (in extreme circumstances) skin contact.

Although nicotine poisoning should be taken seriously, it is rarely fatal. Deaths from what most would define as “typical use” of nicotine products are unheard of. Often, overconsuming leads to a brief spell with mild symptoms, although a trip to the hospital may be necessary in severe cases.

The biggest areas of concern exist outside of typical use:

  • Children are the most vulnerable to any type of poisoning due to their low body mass, curiosity, and ignorance. The potentially lethal dose of nicotine will be significantly lower for a child than for an adult. They also regularly try to eat and drink things that they shouldn’t. If you have children (or pets) in your home, keep your nicotine products in a secure location.
  • Handling high-strength liquid nicotine base (usually used for making DIY e-liquid) elevates the risk of poisoning. The nicotine strength of e-liquid is rarely higher than 50 mg/mL, whereas DIY nicotine can be as high as 1000 mg/mL (pure, undiluted nicotine)! Even lesser concentrations commonly used in DIY e-liquid (72-100 mg/mL) can be toxic if swallowed, with the potential to cause symptoms by merely contacting the skin. Those handling any strength of liquid nicotine should always take protective measures.
  • Unfortunately, some people just do stupid things. Do NOT shove a full container of ZYNs in your mouth, drink e-liquid, vape nicotine base, or do direct-lung hits on your 50 mg disposable vape. Consume responsibly, or else you’re risking a case of nicotine poisoning and a trip to the emergency room.

Symptoms of nicotine poisoning

Nicotine poisoning usually occurs in two distinct phases. This is due to the dual nature of nicotine—it can act as a stimulant in moderate doses and transition to a depressor in large doses. Common cases of mild overexposure to nicotine may only result in phase one symptoms. Unless severe, such cases are unlikely to qualify as nicotine poisoning.

Phase one: this is what users often refer to as “nicotine sickness” or being “nic sick.” It tends to occur within 15 to 60 minutes of overexposure. Most of the symptoms are caused by overstimulation of the nervous system and may include:

  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Increased or abnormal heart rate
  • Anxiety
  • Increased saliva production
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Stomachache
  • Heavy breathing
  • Sweating
  • High blood pressure
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Phase two: this phase may begin as soon as 30 minutes (up to a few hours) after overexposure, and could persist for four to 24 hours, depending on the dose. The symptoms highlight the depressor effects of nicotine:

  • Decreased heart rate
  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Shallow breathing
  • Diarrhea
  • Pale skin
  • Low blood pressure
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What is the lethal dose of nicotine?

The lethal dose of nicotine is both complicated and debatable. CDC and NIOSH claim that 50-60 mg of nicotine can be fatal for adults weighing 70 kg. Some medical journals and textbooks suggest ranges between 30 mg to 60 mg. Unfortunately, many of these claims trace back to a questionable study from 1906. More recent studies suggest the lethal dose is likely substantially higher than previously believed (500 mg or more).

It's worth noting that the lethal dose won’t be the same for everyone. It will depend on one’s body mass, metabolism, fitness level, tolerance, underlying health conditions, and other factors (many of which are unpredictable). 

Regardless, it’s important to remember that nicotine is a potentially toxic compound. It should always be consumed and handled with caution. Those experiencing severe symptoms of nicotine poisoning should seek immediate medical attention.

Can you get nicotine poisoning from ZYN?

Although we can’t say it’s impossible, it would be difficult to get nicotine poisoning from ZYN without deliberately using many pouches simultaneously. Overconsuming could yield mild symptoms of nicotine poisoning and varying degrees of discomfort, but it’s unlikely to be severe. If you use nicotine pouches responsibly and respect your body’s unique limitations (i.e., tolerance), there’s no reason to worry.

Can ZYNs make you throw up?

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Yes, ZYNs can make you throw up if you consume more than your body can tolerate. Too much nicotine will overstimulate the chemoreceptor trigger zone (CTZ) in the brain. The CTZ is equipped with receptors that actively monitor the blood; when toxins are found, it activates the vomiting reflex.

Can ZYNs kill you if you overdose?

There is no reason to suspect that typical use of ZYN by an adult could result in a fatal overdose. It would require an enormous amount of effort and recklessness. Even cases of severe nicotine poisoning from pouches are unheard of. This is likely because ZYNs contain relatively low levels of nicotine, and only a fraction of it enters the bloodstream.

The average absorption efficiency of nicotine pouches has not been established. It depends on several factors, such as ingredients, pouch size, moisture content, and pH. One study suggested users absorb 31% of nicotine contained in snus pouches. While not a perfect equivalent, it suggests that a 6 mg ZYN pouch may introduce around 2 mg of nicotine into the body. 

Whether we grant the dubious lethal dose claim of 60 mg or the modern claims of 500 mg, “death by ZYN” is not a realistic concern for responsible users. A fatal overdose (for an adult) would require the consumption of 30 to 250 pouches within a short period. It would be almost impossible to maintain ingestion of that much nicotine since it would quickly induce vomiting.

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Can you get nicotine poisoning from swallowing ZYN?

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Although it’s perfectly fine to swallow your saliva while using ZYN, you should never swallow the pouch itself. But even if you did accidentally swallow one pouch, fears of nicotine poisoning would not be warranted. In fact, you would absorb less nicotine from a pouch in your stomach than in your mouth. That doesn't mean you should do it, though. Much like chewing gum, ZYNs are not designed to be digested. Accidentally swallowing one won’t kill you, but it could lead to unpleasant repercussions, such as a stomachache or diarrhea.

What to do if you overdose on ZYN

While it’s unlikely to get nicotine poisoning from ZYN, one should always err on the side of caution. If you are experiencing moderate to severe symptoms, or if you’re unsure about the severity, please seek medical attention right away. Those in the U.S. may also contact the poison control center at 1-800-222-1222. This is even more crucial if your child has been exposed to any amount of nicotine.

For less severe cases that don’t require medical treatment, it is beneficial to drink plenty of water. Hydration assists in expelling nicotine and other toxins from the body. Also, keep the body moving to increase blood circulation, which also aids in toxin removal. Light exercise is encouraged if you’re feeling up to it.

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How to avoid nicotine sickness from ZYN

Nicotine poisoning may not be much of a concern, but experiencing mild nicotine sickness from ZYN is always a possibility, especially for new users. Let’s conclude with some basic tips to help you avoid overconsumption:

  • Use nicotine pouches responsibly. Always follow the instructions on the container. Never put multiple ZYNs in your mouth at once.
  • Learn your tolerance. Inexperienced users are encouraged to start with a low nicotine strength (2-3 mg) pouches and remove the pouch after 10-20 minutes. This will help you gauge your body’s unique response. After a brief trial period, adjust your usage accordingly.
  • Be mindful when using multiple types of nicotine products. If you vape and use nicotine pouches interchangeably, you’ll need to balance the use of both products to ensure you’re not consuming more nicotine than your body can handle. 
  • Drink more water. Hydration assists in flushing nicotine from the body. Although nicotine poisoning from pouches is rare, it is more likely to occur if you are dehydrated.

Listen to your body; it will usually tell when you’ve had enough nicotine. If you start experiencing symptoms of nicotine poisoning (even mild symptoms), or if something just feels “off” or uncomfortable, dispose of the pouch immediately.

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Jeremy VanOs

Vaping since: 10 years

Favorite products:

Favorite flavors: Tobaccos, fruits, custards

Expertise in: RTAs, RDAs, MTL vapes, coil-building

Jeremy VanOs

Vaping empowered me to kick a lengthy smoking habit in 2014. It changed my life and I never looked back. Although vaping quickly became a hobby, my real passion is helping smokers make the switch and spreading awareness about the potential of these products. I have been writing vape content and working behind the scenes in the industry since 2016.

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