From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
Diethyl ether, also known as ether and ethoxyethane, is a clear, colorless, and highly flammable liquid with a low boiling point and a characteristic odor. It is the most common member of a class of chemical compounds known generically as ethers. It is an isomer of butanol.
The anesthetic effects of ether have made it a recreational drug, although not a popular one. Diethyl ether is not as toxic as other solvents used as recreational drugs.
Ether, mixed with ethanol, was marketed in the 19th century as a cure-all and recreational drug, during one of Western society's temperance movements. At the time, it was considered improper for women to consume alcoholic beverages at social functions, and sometimes ether-containing drugs would be consumed instead. A cough medicine called Hoffmann's Drops was marketed at the time as one of these drugs, and contained both ether and alcohol in its capsules. Ether tends to be difficult to consume alone, and thus was often mixed with drugs like ethanol for recreational use. Ether may also be used as an inhalant.
Due to its immiscibility with water and the fact that non-polar organic compounds are highly soluble in it, ether is also used in the production of freebase cocaine, and is listed as a Table II precursor under the United Nations Convention Against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances.