Cocaine Production Process
In the cocaine production process, the technology to extract cocaine from the coca leaf hasn’t changed much in a hundred years. The chemical tricks in the cocaine production process used date back even further. The key idea is to take advantage of how cocaine dissolves in different substances and how to alter this.
To start the cocaine production process, the leaves of the coca bush are harvested and dried. A good crop can be harvested up to six times a year by simply running the hand along a branch and taking all the leaves off. It doesn’t kill the bush and when the leaves regrow, harvesting can be repeated. The leaves are then dried for a day or two to remove moisture and chopped up. This mass is then extracted in the same way you might make a tea – except gasoline or other, non-water based solvent is used.
Cocaine base is not soluble in water but diesel fuel, gasoline or other solvent will work. There are reports that with the rise in gasoline prices, other solvents are being used in the cocaine production process. The tea is then strained to remove the leaves -- the cocaine remains in the gasoline along with other chemicals from the plant.
The next step in the cocaine production process is to acidify the solution which converts the cocaine base into a water soluble form. Some sulfuric acid and water is added to do this. The mixture is shaken and the cocaine (now cocaine sulfate) moves out of the gasoline and into the acidic water mixture.
Since gasoline and water do not mix, the gasoline can be poured off (and reused for the next round). The water solution is then treated with lye or other strong base to neutralize the acid and convert the cocaine back into the non-sulfate form. With this conversion, the molecule is no longer soluble in water and it comes out of solution as a yellow-white, gummy powder. This is filtered out. At this stage, it is properly called cocaine paste.
Cocaine paste can be further refined in the cocaine production process to raise its purity. Purification is typically done at another, more technical site (the actual farmers might have done the steps to get to the paste form). The steps are similar, but more care and quality control gives a purer product.