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  • Cold Water Extraction (CWE) is a method of modifying combination prescription painkiller products. 

    CWE filters out acetaminophen (brand name Tylenol, also known as paracetamol), ibuprofen, or aspirin from the medication, leaving opioids such as codeine, hydrocodone, and oxycodone in a water solution.

    Why Cold Water Extraction (CWE)?

    When a combination drug product like Vicodin or Percocet is abused, it presents a two-pronged threat. 

    First, the opioid active ingredient can cause an overdose if taken in enough quantity. Opioid overdose can be deadly, and continued Percocet abuse can also result in dependence and addiction.

    Second, the acetaminophen in Percocet can also present a serious long term risk. Routine consumption of high levels of acetaminophen can result in liver damage and liver failure. 

    The Purpose Of Percocet CWE

    By tampering with or modifying prescription painkillers using CWE, people can remove the unwanted analgesic from the medication, significantly lowering their risk of long term liver injury.

    CWE can also extract opioids from a combination of sources. including low concentration ones like codeine cough syrups. This process concentrates the drug in liquid form until enough is collected for a high dose. 

    How Does CWE Work?

    CWE uses fractional crystallization, a chemical process that separates substances based on their solubility in water.

    Opioids like oxycodone (found in Percocet) and hydrocodone (found in Vicodin) are highly soluble in water, while acetaminophen, ibuprofen, and aspirin are not. In fact, codeine is reportedly more than 230 times more soluble than acetaminophen.

    To accomplish the filtration, you crush the medication tablets into a fine powder, mix it with warm water, and then cool the mixture while letting it settle. 

    The opioids will dissolve while unwanted solids will settle to the bottom. After this process is complete, the liquid is strained using a coffee filter or t-shirt.

    CWE Effectiveness

    Performed properly, a cold water extraction has a relatively high level of effectiveness, yielding a mixture that can be 90 percent pure of unwanted substances or more and extracting between 40-70 percent of the opiate.

    However, using CWE to take opioids alone can lead to severe side effects, including overdose and addiction. In the United States, many people struggle with prescription drug abuse and may require treatment.

    Recovering From Percocet Abuse

    While CWE may limit some of the damage of prescription pain medication, it still represents habit forming drug abuse. 

    If you or a loved one is misusing Percocet or any other prescription pain medication it’s important to seek help from a qualified addiction treatment center.

    Behavioral therapy can help you understand your addiction, manage withdrawals through medical detox, and achieve recovery in a supportive environment. 

    To learn more, contact an Ark Behavioral Health specialist today.

    Written by Ark Behavioral Health Editorial Team
    ©2024 Ark National Holdings, LLC. | All Rights Reserved.
    This page does not provide medical advice.
    Medically Reviewed by
    Kimberly Langdon M.D.
    on April 13, 2022
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