Cold Water Extraction


Cold water extraction is also known as CWE. It is a very popular method of extracting opiates from pharmaceutical drugs, especially painkillers, that contain a mixture of acetaminophen and opiates. As the name suggests, the process makes use of cold water and is based on the principles of fractional crystallization.

The method can be used on ibuprofen and paracetamol. While paracetamol is soluble in water at room temperature, it is not very soluble in cold water that measures nearly zero degree Celsius. Hence, the content of paracetamol in tablets can be reduced by refrigeration first and then, it is eliminated by filtration.

Unlike paracetamol, ibuprofen is insoluble in water at room temperature that enables one to perform a much simpler process of extraction. The tablet is dissolved in water and mixed thoroughly. An aqueous layer is formed that contains codeine and is removed by decanting. Following is the detailed process for both types of tablets.

How to Do Cold Water Extraction?

The equipment you need to perform cold water extraction includes specific quantities and varieties of opioid painkillers, water, several large containers or glasses, coffee filter paper (a cloth or tightly meshed material can work too), a dropper or syringe, and a freezer.

Removing Paracetamol

Take a box of thirty-two tablets, each of which contains eight milligrams of codeine phosphate and five hundred milligrams of paracetamol. These tablets should be taken out from their packing and dissolved in warm water. The water should be just covering the pills.

When the tablets have been thoroughly dissolved, add some more cold water to decrease the temperature while increasing the volume. It is important to know that the quantity of paracetamol in the final product depends on the quantity of water used in the extraction process; the more the water, the more the paracetamol. On the other hand, using too little water is not a good idea either as it will be very challenging to filter it without needing a vacuum.

Next, the solution is stirred before placing it in the freezer for thirty minutes. During this time, it will get close to its freezing point and the paracetamol will start to precipitate out. After the solution has reached an appropriate temperature, quickly stir it before pouring using a coffee filter. You can also use a tightly-meshed material like a sock or shirt as a filter. When taking a large quantity of tablets, you should make use of more than one filter rig to increase the speed of the process and prevent clogging. After passing the solution through the filter, wash the residue with some cold water to dissolve and harvest any codeine that the filter has caught.

The filtered solution will be clear to a great extent, containing about 250 grams of codeine phosphate with a very small amount of paracetamol.

Removing Ibuprofen

This is the process of taking out opioid from products that also contain ibuprofen. It is more convenient as compared to the removal of paracetamol. You can start with a box of Nurofen that contains thirty-two tablets. Each tablet consists of 200 milligrams of ibuprofen and 12.8 milligrams of codeine phosphate. Remove the pills from their packing and drop them into some quantity of warm water. The tablets will swell up when they have absorbed the water and you can easily mix them with a fork.

Next, some cold water is added to the container and the solution is stirred to dissolve codeine. While it is not necessary to make use of a freezer for cooling the mixture, it can increase the speed of the process. When the mixture has settled after about thirty minutes, it will leave behind the insoluble binders and ibuprofen at the bottom. The aqueous codeine solution will come to the top of the container. You may notice a white-colored skin on the aqueous layer, which is non-toxic, and you can remove it with a spoon.

With the help of a dropper or syringe, this aqueous layer is transferred into another container and half the quantity of the original water is used to retrieve the codeine left. The solution that results will not be entirely clear, but it will consist of a very little amount of ibuprofen with maximum 409.6 milligrams of codeine phosphate.

How Cold Water Extraction Works

The reason this process works incredibly well is the cold water as opioid substances are highly soluble and paracetamol, ibuprofen, aspirin, and other unwanted substances are nearly insoluble in cold water. By crushing the pills until they are in powdered form, mixing them with water, and bringing the solution to lower temperatures, you can easily separate the undesired substances that remain solid and collect at the bottom, whereas the opiates remain dissolved in water. Using any type of screen, you can pour the water solution in and quickly get rid of the solid residue. A coffee filter is the recommended screen. The final solution only contains the opiate and a few other harmless substances that you can drink.

Health Benefits

The procedure of cold water extraction is healthy, simple, and quite effective. It can greatly minimize the harm that is done to your body by common painkillers and at the same time, you can benefit from their desirable effects without any loss of potency. The process is very simple and easy to perform if you properly follow the recommended method. It does not require any special equipment that cannot be found in your household.

It significantly minimizes or even eliminates the quantity of harmful content found in tablets that consist of opiates, which can substantially improve the quality of your life. It will prevent medical issues from occurring that are related to ibuprofen, paracetamol, and aspirin. Furthermore, the process will reduce the toxicity as well as the risk of an overdose of paracetamol (also known as acetaminophen and APAP), which is known to cause about five hundred deaths and fifty thousand hospitalizations on average per year.