Medicine has come a long way. In the old days, going to the doctor could easily be a nightmare experience, and more often than not, the techniques that “professionals” used would do a lot more harm than good. Here are five most horrifying methods that we’re so glad doctors don’t use anymore:
5. Tobacco smoke as a cure-all
In the 18th century, people believed tobacco smoke could cure a wide variety of ailments, like vomiting, hernias, and more. The method (as well as the substance) was questionable: doctors would literally blow the smoke up the patient’s rectum with bellows and rubber tubing. This continued until the 19th century, when tobacco’s harmful effects became more well-known. The practice did create the phrase, “Blowing smoke up your ass,” which means someone is giving insincere compliments.
4. The tranquilizing chair for mental illness
Before doctors understood mental illness, pretty much all the treatments were horrifying. One such treatment was the tranquilizing chair, which would restrain a patient by their arms and legs, and cover their head with a box. The seat would have a hole and a bucket underneath it, because patients were frequently so traumatized, they would empty their bowels from fear.
3. Heroin as a cough syrup
In the early 1900’s, Bayer marketed straight heroin as a cough remedy, believing it to be less addictive than morphine. However, that turned out to be false, and people who took it became dependent on it and had to be treated in the hospital. In 1913, Bayer caught on to the problem, and stopped selling the hard drug as medicine.
The world’s oldest form of brain surgery – known as trepanation- was no walk in the park. Whenever someone got sick, a “doctor” would bore a hole in their head all the way through their skull. We don’t know exactly what people were trying to do, but one theory is that our ancestors believed disease was caused by evil spirits that lived inside the head, and cutting a hole would release them. Shockingly, unearthed skulls show that a lot of people survived the gruesome surgery, but it’s unknown how effective trepanation was for their specific problem.
1. Cautery irons for hemorrhoids
Hemorrhoids are one of the most painful and embarrassing health problems to have. In the past, doctors would just cut them open and cauterize the wound with a white-hot iron. That method is actually still used today if the hemorrhoids are bad enough, but back in the day, they didn’t have the painkillers.