Applied Science BTEC Nationals/Chemical Laboratory Techniques/Cocaine banknotes

Cocaine can be extracted from bank notes by vortex agitation with 15 ml methanol for 5 minutes. The extract is then evaporated and the sample can be reconstituted in 0.5 ml methanol.[1]

The presence of cocaine is confirmed using the cobalt thiocyanate (Scott) test.

The cobalt thiocyanate reagent can be prepared by dissolving ten grams of cobalt (II) thiocyanate in a mixture of 490 milliliters of distilled water and 500 milliliters of glycerin.

The cobalt thiocyanate test is performed by placing approximately 2 to 4 milligrams of a target substance in a glass test tube, then 5 drops of cobalt thiocyanate reagent. After shaking, 1 or 2 drops of concentrated hydrochloric acid are added, and the tube is again shaken. Ten drops of chloroform (or similar solvent) are then added, and the tube is vortexed, then allowed to settle and separate into two layers. The final colour of the chloroform (organic) layer is recorded.

Addition of the cobalt thiocyanate reagent to cocaine hydrochloride results in the surface of the particles turning a bright blue (faint blue for cocaine base). The solution changes back to pink upon adding one or two drops of hydrochloric acid and mixing. Addition of 10 drops of chloroform, vortexing, and allowing the solution to settle results in a blue organic layer for both cocaine hydrochloride and cocaine base.

Diphenhydramine and lidocaine also give blue organic layers. These compounds are known false positives for cocaine.


Amanda J. Hanson "Specificity of the Duquenois-Levine and Cobalt Thiocyanate Tests Substituting Methylene Chloride or Butyl Chloride for Chloroform."

  1. Francesc A. Esteve-Turrillas, et al "Validated, non-destructive and environmentally friendly determination of cocaine in euro bank notes."