and why would you want to do this? its possible in a few different ways, but is really depends on what you're trying to extract. its possible for common person, but without actual lab equipment it wont be very pure.
Yes, it is possible. Like .Radiant said, you need proper equipment before you do anything. You also need to have an understanding of Organic Chemistry and how to properly use the equipment. You pretty much will be wasting your time if you try without these things because you will not do it right.
You need to find out all sorts of information about what you are working with before you will get anywhere. Melting Points, Boiling Point, what will it absorb into, how the compound is structured, and what you SHOULD NOT add to the mixture ect... Plus, the chemicals/solvents needed to extract compounds are going to be very dangerous and you will not have access to them. So the common person most likely will not be able to do it.
My expertise is more in the materials side of things than the pharmacology but I hold that some of the modern plastics, ceramics and composites are up there with drugs in top level complexity (see note in two paragraphs), indeed I have found myself going back to biology as I work my way into that world. Similarly I am a person/hang around with people who take great delight in making/figuring out how to make certain things from "ordinary" things and I have read the works of the Shulgins many times over.
Pills though: it should be noted that pills are not simple wrappers but often complex engineered delivery systems designed at limiting rate of delivery (why you are often told not to crunch high end painkillers) and point of delivery (certain casings are designed to break down and be absorbed in a given intestine).
Drugs: many will get hung up on the complex organic chemistry side of things and while there is no argument from me that many many things exist in that regime some are all too quick to forget that a lot of drugs are but simple inorganic substances (it is called lithium for a reason) or rudimentary organic substances (ethanol- as in booze is brutally simple to make).
Second question: it is implied a certain level of fitness for human consumption is desired but I will ask it outright; do you want this for human consumption (indeed next question would be long term or just will not kill someone outright but long term is a more risky proposition) or are you attempting a level of base purity for say reverse engineering (many high end drugs that need minuscule amounts to be effective will have masking compounds so separation becomes important).
Third question: are we talking "industrial" quantities (say the turning of "diet pills" into meth amphetamine for an area wide distribution) or again for the single use/reverse engineering level where quantity is not important. The general rule of thumb for industrial chemistry is very similar to the rule of errors in physics in that the more steps you have the less you process will yield.
Fourth question: are we talking my kitchen (well maybe not "my" kitchen) as is or here is £1K cash now go buy me a lab (indeed I could probably do it by the end of the day), similarly what is my budget for this (most of the home "cooks" that blow themselves up or make the stuff that kills people quickly are cheapskates and the rest tend to be those that rush it).
Also this common person is a vague term: A level (16-18 years old) chemistry contained sections on distillation (complex, fractional and simple), polymerisation, catalysis, acid and base reactions, suspension of substances in others, identification of compounds and on and on and on- all the basic lab techniques needed for this and every major bookshop in the country will sell a book on this meaning everyone who can read and transfer a bit of knowledge can play this game. Books for first and second year degree level chemistry, pharmacology and medicine are not restricted either. I have already mentioned the authors of one of the main works of illicit pharmacology. By similar token if you are holding a proper drug (rather than narcotic) in your hand it probably had the better part of a decade doing tests before you could get your hands on it; all that research is not that hard to get your hands on if it is not already widely published.
Fifth question: are we following a guide or are we playing the game for ourselves (I will dub this research grade). I hold that any fool that can cook something more complex than peas/oven food can follow a basic "experiment" guide (which is especially ironic that some of the chemists I have met can run a lab brilliantly yet they can not cook).
Dookieman argues that some of the chemicals are hard to get ahold of. Indeed while the "common person" (a trained type could probably mask their activities or talk their way out of it) probably could not walk into a chemical supply shop tomorrow with such an intent and leave without a facebag and free fast car ride in a black sedan:
Distilled (pure) water: I can make it or it is known as ironing water, they sell it for cars, they sell it for fish and on and on and on and on. I have a 50 litre tank in my hall right now. Essential for anything good.
Acids: high conc sulphuric I can get from car batteries still. The other "main" mineral acids are not that hard to get my hands on either.
Organic acids are a bit harder to lay my hands on beyond the basic ethanoic (what vinegar is made from) and the like but some fools persuaded the government that organic and water based paints and the like were the way forward so that is set to change.
Bases: your cleaning supplies are a good source.
Hairdressing holds many more (I am quite shocked at some of the stuff hairdressers can get and in what is no way intended as an insult they let the complete idiots do the hairdressing/beautician courses at most colleges* that I have looked at). *US bound college in the UK is something available for those aged 16-18 (16 is school leaving age for a little while longer).
Builders merchants: I was walking home the other day and some people down the road were redoing their driveway; the guy doing it had a whole bucket of off the shelf xylene sitting in his truck.
The stuff used to attempt to plug holes in car engines had some wonderful chemicals in when I was reading the list of ingredients a few months back.
It is nicer now but some of plastic bonding stuff in days past was useful here.
Kids chemistry kits: hold basic lab equipment and while modern ones are not quite as fun as say 80s/early 90s kits a bit of knowledge goes a long way. Tools to run a lab are not that hard to get or adapt from kitchen equipment.
Filtering: coffee filters anyone. Going back to cars for a minute all manner of organic solvents and inorganic solvents are there.
If adapting chemicals (useful for isolation and extraction) chemists/drug stores will have all manner of off the shelf and over the counter things that can be of use (citrates, sulphates, nitrates).
IR spectroscopy is a bit harder to find but more than a few chemical companies go bust/upgrade their stuff these days and if you only want a crude one it is not that far out for a competent engineer. While I would say this is a near fundamental for "research" if you are just following a guide you can probably get away without it. The kits to run "gels" are not hard to find either.
Going back to fish for a minute: the testing kits used in such things are amazing.
By similar token what once would have required a big machine probably now exists in a USB device on dealextreme.
Thus far I have not mentioned any of the more dubious methods either: dry cleaners use toluene/methyl benzene by the barrel (there are few better solvents), farms are almost always a source of interesting chemicals, schools often have all manner of chemicals in them (how many of you ever took home some magnesium; that is only the start of it), I have been in more than a few "abandoned" factories as well (the sort of thing where a chain is thrown round the front door and everyone is told not to come back Monday).
Dookieman also mentions boiling and melting point, for organics you also have denaturing point if you have enzymes in there.
Fast6191, has some points about the whereabouts of commonly used chemicals needed to preform compound extraction. He also touches on the fact that anyone who can follow instructions is able preform an experiment. He is right on these points, but the inherent danger, complexity, and knowledge needed to successfully extract a compound is not worth your trouble. IE: Getting Sulfuric Acid from a car battery, you will probably fuck it up and get burned, thus ending your desire to continue on.
If you still wish to try, I will stress that you do get an Organic Chemistry book and read it. It will give you basic understanding on how the reactions are suppose to preform. It will show what will absorb into what solvent, Dichloromethane is a popular one. You will probably need other chemicals which are going to be difficult to get your hands on, plus, the purity of the solvents is also a big factor in your end product purity.
So I am probably safe to assume you want to get a better high, and want to extract the compounds to get you there. Do yourself a favor and don't, its not worth the effort for a little return.
holy crap didn't expect such replies! i was just wondering how easy it is, basically to separate the two drugs contained in the pill, it was vicodin and acetominophen, i didn't want to actually do it just wondering if the common person can do it, but thanks for the replies.
According to some Googling...
to separate Hydrocodone from Vicodin I believe most junkies dilute the pill in boiling water, the acetaminophen or Tylenol will stay in powder form(which can be strained or filtered out) while the Hydrocodone or opiate desired drug will remain in the water which is then injected or ingested. Vicodin pills range from 5mg to 10mg of Hydrocodone depending on pill version obtained. I was on Vicodin HPs for almost 2 years due to a back injury, I never obtained any sort of buzz from taking sometimes 3 at a time, so I am not really sure how many pills most junkies would use.
according to Wikipedia it says users will use cold water extraction to separate the opiate drugs from pills like Vicodin or Percocet. So I guess the water boiling is not needed.
also I do not wish to condone or promote recreational drug use.