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Historical vignette. Ether drinking in Ireland.


Ribert A Strickland

Type: Report
Region: Republic of Ireland
Northern Ireland

Ether was first used as an anaesthetic in 1846 and this paper charts the rise of ether drinking in Ireland. The author points to the renewed vigilance by authorities in regard to illegal distillation on alcohol or 'poteen'; with that ether was seen as a viable alternative. The rise of Father Matthew and the abstinence pledge in Ireland may have also increased ether use, allowing people to get drunk "on a clear conscience". It was estimated that in 1891 100,000 people in Ireland consumed 17,000 gallons of impure ether annually. The practice of ether consumption in Ireland died out due to regulatory statutes, as ether was classified as a poison in 1890 by the British government, which meant it could only be sold by pharmacists or chemists.



Rights: Public
Suggested citation:

Ribert A Strickland. (1996) Historical vignette. Ether drinking in Ireland. [Online]. Available from: [Accessed: 22nd August 2019].


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