Suicide/Toxification/Cold water extraction

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Cold water extraction (CWE) is a well-known technique that is used to extract opiates from pharmaceutical drugs that contain a combination of opiates and acetaminophen (i.e. paracetamol). A good example of such a drug is Darvocet.

Why should it work?[edit]

The cold water extraction technique works basically because acetaminophen is only very slightly soluble in water (especially when it is cold), whereas opiates are extremely soluble in cold or lukewarm water.

Which medicines would it be applicable for?[edit]

This technique is suitable for drugs that are a combination of acetaminophen and:

  • Codeine;
  • Dextropropoxyphene;
  • Hydrocodone;
  • Oxycodone;

Note: Caffeine can not be removed with the cold water extraction technique.

How does one do this technique?[edit]

We will explain to you how it is done.

Before you start with the actual extraction[edit]

First of all, you need to crush the tablets (or granules, if the drug is in capsules) up very thoroughly, so that it becomes a fine powder. This can be done by any sturdy object, provided that you first put the tablets in a thin towel or any folded paper. This is to avoid losing some of the crushed tablets, since they may scatter.

Note: Darvocet comes as a powder, so you do not need to crush the Darvocet.

How to extract from the powder[edit]

If you are extracting 10 pills, a quarter cup of water is more than enough (60 ml if you have a measuring cup). Similarly, for about 20 pills, 120 ml would do (you may measure by using a simple syringe with markings of ml on it; such syringes are easily obtainable). The more water you use, the more difficult it is to get the acetaminophen out (as more of it would dissolve as you use more water or raise the temperature of the water that you use), so do not use too much.

Conversely, too little water will just give you a paste that cannot be separated. If you are going to extract more than one dose, then measure it in some way. You can, for instance, do up to four or ten doses; just use some measure, like an empty eye-drops bottle or herbal extract bottle.

Dissolve the crushed pills in the water; stir or shake till all the clumps are gone. Pour it into the bottom of a small bowl, cover it, and then put it in the freezer. Let it get really cold, but not so cold that it actually freezes (some binders seem to get really swollen if they freeze). This should not take that long, since it is shallow. You will see that the acetaminophen actually crystallises out, and you will be able to feel it as grit when you stick your finger into the liquid above the sludge and then rub your fingers. (But even if it does not do that, it works anyhow.)

Take the liquid out of the fridge. For a filter, use a piece of cloth about the size of a washcloth. The cloth can be any closely-woven cotton, preferably undyed. The back of a dress, shirt or a piece of plain muslin works well. T-shirts are usually too loosely woven to work. Soak the cloth in cold water while you are waiting for the APAP crystals to form. Put the cloth in a coffee filter cone or just drape it over the edges of a small bowl, glass or jar. When the solution is ready, pour everything - solution and glop - into the cloth. Bring up the ends of the cloth and squeeze the solution through. Now, you may scrape the glop left on the cloth into the bowl, and add another 30-40 ml of water in order to again go through the whole process that is described above. This is to get more of the pure opiate (e.g. dextropropoxyphene) out of the glop.

When the solution in the freezer is ready, pour it through the cloth, and squeeze it through (the acetaminophen will stay in the cloth while the opiate will be filtered out). Some sources recommend to further filter the solution through coffee filter, which has been soaked into cold water before. According to my experience, this is a redundant thing to do, as the filtering done by the cotton cloth is already fairly sufficient. If you want even purer stuff with less acetaminophen, take a couple of acetaminophen crystals from your sludge, put them in the liquid in order to seed further crystallisation of APAP, and then repeat the chilling and filtering process.