INTRODUCTION: Nicotine is an addictive and poisonous agent. The recent development of e-cigarettes has caused a new demand for highly concentrated nicotine-containing solutions. These concentrated nicotine solutions have also increased the risk of nicotine overdoses.
AREAS COVERED: Essential factors for nicotine exposure are the concentration of the nicotine-containing e-liquid solution and its pharmacokinetics. Liquid nicotine refills contain nicotine in varying concentrations, which vary widely between and within products. The pharmacokinetics of nicotine are dependent on the route of administration, renal/hepatic clearance and urinary pH. The dose is another essential determinant of nicotine exposure. There is a considerable discrepancy between the generally accepted lethal dose and symptoms reported in case studies. Ingested doses correlate poorly to clinical symptoms. Symptoms of liquid nicotine toxicity vary from mild to severe between patients and are the result of overstimulation of nicotinic acetylcholine receptors, which may lead to fatal respiratory failure and cardiovascular collapse.
EXPERT OPINION: The literature on nicotine-containing e-liquid intoxications originating from vaping device refills are mainly case reports. Based on these case reports, we propose a treatment plan which is primarily symptomatic. Research should focus on providing insight on its toxicity, based on oral and transdermal pharmacokinetics and on toxicodynamics.