This is a thread for the collection of Cold Water Extraction techniques, and discussion on the viability and safety of these methods. We get a few threads on this process, so I figured it would be good to have a source for this information in the one place.
Cold Water Extraction FAQ – Mr Blonde
What is a Cold Water Extraction (CWE)?
In the context of this website, a Cold Water Extraction is a method used to separate compounds that are mixed together by using their difference of solubility in water. Common examples of medicines that this may be performed on is Tylenol #3 (Aspirin, Codeine, + Caffeine in Canada), or Nurofen + (Codeine, Ibuprofen), or Vicoden (hydrocodone, Acetaminophen).
Why do people perform a CWE?
Simple reason; they are taking large amounts of the medication in question for whatever reason to gain the effects/benefits of one active ingredient (e.g. hydrocodone), or taking this medication long-term in large amounts, however at the same time they are putting themselves at risk of physical harm through the ingestion of large amounts of the combo ingredient (e.g. acetaminophen, ibuprofen, etc…). A cold water extraction is a simple way to separate the water soluble compound from the relatively non-water soluble compounds we do not want, e.g. hydrocodone will dissolve in room temperature water but acetaminophen won’t to the same extent, allowing us to easily separate them.
Is a CWE illegal?
In the case of hydrocodone or codeine containing preparations, in most jurisdictions this procedure is illegal. For example, in Australia codeine mixed with acetaminophen or ibuprofen is either schedule II up to a 24-sized pack, schedule III for a 48-size pack or greater and schedule IV if the dose of codeine is 30mg. If the medication is codeine only, the schedule is VIII, the highest Rx schedule category in Australia. By performing a CWE, you are removing the combination ingredient and are left with mostly the codeine. This could then be considered a schedule VIII drug, and thus illegal to possess without a script.
So, why is discussion of this technique allowed?
Quite simple; a CWE is avoiding the harm that could come about were people to ingest large amounts of acetaminophen (APAP) or aspirin or ibuprofen or other combo ingredients. Examples:
APAP: Overdose is associated with liver damage caused by the liver being unable to process the toxic metabolite of APAP, N-acetyl-p-benzo-quinone imine (NAPQI). When you ingest APAP, it normally gets converted to inactive metabolites with only a small amount becoming NAPQI. Usually this toxin is then conjugated by the liver tripeptide glutathione. When very large doses of APAP are taken, the liver is unable to process the amount of the drug and therefore more NAPQI is produced, and the liver is unable to conjugate it. This toxin causes liver failure. The antidote for NAPQI is acetylcysteine, however if you believe you have taken a toxic dose of APAP it is best to seek medical attention. A single dose of 10 grams or 200mg per kilogram of body mass can be toxic, and multiple smaller doses in a period of 24 hours can also be toxic. Using APAP in normal doses everyday has been shown to cause increases in liver function tests of up to three fold.
Aspirin: Large doses or continuous use can cause gastrointestinal bleeding, ringing in the ears (tinnitus), nausea, vomiting, dizziness, hyperthermia, seizures, cerebral edema and comas. Most deaths from aspirin overdose are due to pulmonary edema. Aspirin can be toxic at 150mg/kg of body mass, and is considered lethal at above 500mg/kg. Although this sounds like a lot of aspirin, similar toxicity can occur with above-average-use spread out over a period of time. If you believe you may have overdosed, seek medical attention.
Ibuprofen: Overdose can cause nausea, stomach pains, dizziness, headaches, tinnitus and nystagmus (rapid eye-wobbles you may be familiar with if you have used MDMA), seizures, hypotension, tachycardia, hepatic and renal failure, cardiac arrest and death (though deaths from ibuprofen are relatively rare compared to APAP and aspirin). Toxic effects of this substance are considered to begin around 100mg/kg of body mass. If you believe you have overdosed on this substance, you should seek medical attention.
So, how do you perform a CWE?
There are a few different techniques used to perform a CWE; the aim of this thread is to collate them so that they aren’t all just floating around the place, and so that people can discuss their methods, viability, possible safety issues, etc.
Solubility in Room Temperature:
APAP: Roughly 1 gram per 100ml at room temperature; around 0.1-0.5 grams per 100ml if the temperature is lowered to around 22C.
Aspirin: Roughly 1 gram per 100ml at room temperature. Same at 22C.
Ibuprofen: Roughly 1 gram per 100ml at room temperature or less.
Mr Blonde’s Basic CWE
1) If I have Nurofen +, I will grind these in a coffee grinder; most other codeine combo meds dissolve quite quickly by themselves and these I will just drop into a glass of cool water. I use 50mL for 24 tablets of 10mg codeine/500mg APAP, for preparations known to be more ‘sludgy’ (e.g. N+, certain codeine/APAP brands), I will use 75-100mL of water. I try to use only 150-200ml of water maximum.
2) Once the tablets are dissolved, I stir them and then place an old shirt in a cup as a filter. I wet the shirt prior to using as a filter.
3) Pour the solution through the filter, and wait until the stream of filtered solution slows to droplets. I then squeeze the shirt to get the most liquid out.
4) That’s it! Dispose of the liquid by drinking, and dispose of the filtrate in your bin. Some people do second washes on the filtrate left over, I however do not.
Erowid’s CWE Technique
1. Obtain a quantity of tablets containing codeine, check to see if they contain anything other than codeine, caffeine, acetaminophen or aspirin. If they do, and you don't know whether or not it will be a problem, your best bet is not to use them. Measure out your desired amount of codeine (ex. 64 mg = 8 tablets * 8mg/tablet). You may want to add 2 extra tablets as it is quite likely you will lose some codeine in the procedure. As you get more experience with the procedure you will be able to get approx. 95% of the codeine extracted.
2. Measure out some nice hot water, use approx. 40ml / 20 tablets or more if needed. I would suggest you don't go over 50ml for 20 tablets. I don't know if the use of boiling water would destroy any of the codeine but your best bet is not to use it. Use hot water but not boiling. Make sure the tablets dissolve completely. Some dissolve on contact with water while others need some help dissolving by crushing them. Note : not all of the tablet will dissolve, there are water-insoluble fillers in the tablet and not all of the A/A will dissolve either(which is what we want).
[Most sources recommend that codeine not be stored at temperatures in excess of 40C (104F), so its probably better to use warm, but not hot, water. I find that it is best to crash the tablets completely in a container, and then dissolve them in a glass with water.]
3. Place the solution in a cold bath, I just use some ice cubes in a container of water. Stir the mixture occasionally until the solution drops to about 15C or lower. You won't need a thermometer to measure the temperature, just make sure it's "cold". This will take about 30 min. If you wish to speed this up, you can use less water to dissolve the tablets, and add ice chips to cool the mixture faster. Just make sure you don't add so much ice that you drastically increase the volume of the mixture.
4. Filter the solution using whatever you have. Coffee filters work well, but lab filters work the best. Just make sure you don't end up with obvious solids in the filtered solution. This will take about 1 hr. You may also want to rinse the solids left over in the filter with some ice-water to extract any remaining codeine.
[With aspirin this will take only about 20-30 minutes.]
5. Drink and enjoy! The solution will be _very_ bitter, so I mix a little Kool-aid powder into the solution. The taste isn't really bad but it's similar to sucking on a lemon.
[One gets used to the taste after a while.]
6. Sit back and wait for the effects. Because the codeine is already in solution it only needs to be absorbed, while codeine in the tablet form must dissolve before being absorbed. Because of this, the effects will probably become noticeable within 15min.
Note : I don't suggest you evaporate the mixture unless you are willing to wait a while. The Merck index warns that codeine is sensitive to heat and light. For that reason if you wish to evaporate the mixture, do it without heat, and shield the solution from light.
Can the solution be evaporated to be used for other purposes?
Yes, although the solution is going to contain some binders, fillers and some amount of the combo med we didn’t want. Hence, depending on the drug, the powder could be used for snorting, eating later or plugging, but would in no way be ideal for IV use. Most drugs that come in combo-med form are, as far as I know, not suited for smoking. To find out whether the drug you have separated can be used via a certain method of administration, use the search engine.
Can every combo med be CWE’d?
No. Some combo meds also contain a third ingredient such as an anti-cholinergic. If this third ingredient is potentially dangerous and soluble in water, a CWE will not remove that risk.
Also, there are some preparations of aspirin that are soluble in water. A CWE will not work on these medications.
Note that for brand name Vicoprofen (hydrocodone + ibuprofen) there is a binder named Titanium Dioxide that is used for making skim milk cloudy and milky white which could make your solution look unfiltered even if already has been rendered safer.
And that’s about it. Using this technique will help remove some of the dangers associated with overdoing a combo med, it’s simple to do and could save your health. If you have a technique you use or would like to discuss any aspects of the CWE, this is the thread to do it in.