Death due to ingestion of nicotine-containing solution: case report and review of the literature

Forensic Sci Int. 2010 Feb 25;195(1-3):e19-22. doi: 10.1016/j.forsciint.2009.11.003. Epub 2009 Dec 1.


Nicotine, a lipid-soluble alkaloid obtained from the dried leaves of Nicotiana, is most frequently encountered in tobacco products for smoking, chewing or sniffing as well as in a limited number of pesticides. Though nicotine is one of the most toxic drugs of abuse, it has rarely led to fatalities. Sudden death can be caused by cardiovascular arrest, respiratory muscle paralysis and/or central respiratory failure. A 42-year-old man was found dead by his wife. He was lying on the floor, next to a box containing many empty bottles of beer and vodka. Some labeled chemical bottles found at the scene contained various substances, including nicotine and brucine. Gross examination of the organs at autopsy revealed no specific findings. The toxicological examination failed to disclose any lethal toxic agents other than a high concentration of nicotine and its primary metabolite cotinine in femoral venous blood (2.2 microg/mL). Blood alcohol was determined to be 2.1 g/L in femoral venous blood. Only a paucity of fatal cases of nicotine poisoning has been reported in the literature so far.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Analgesics / analysis
  • Central Nervous System Depressants / blood
  • Cotinine / blood
  • Ethanol / blood
  • Forensic Toxicology
  • Ganglionic Stimulants / analysis
  • Ganglionic Stimulants / poisoning*
  • Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry
  • Gastrointestinal Contents / chemistry
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Nicotine / analysis
  • Nicotine / poisoning*
  • Strychnine / analogs & derivatives
  • Strychnine / analysis


  • Analgesics
  • Central Nervous System Depressants
  • Ganglionic Stimulants
  • Ethanol
  • Nicotine
  • brucine
  • Strychnine
  • Cotinine