Anesthesia: From Early Use of Opium and Hemlock to Modern Day Advances


The history of anesthesia is a long and complicated one. It began with the early use of drugs and chemicals to numb pain but didn’t really gain traction until the mid-19th century. The first real anesthetic was ether, which was used in 1846 by American dentist William Morton. However, it wasn’t until 1868 that English doctor John Snow successfully used chloroform to anesthetize a patient for surgery.

Since then, anesthesia has come a long way. Today, there are many different types of anesthetics available, each with its own advantages and disadvantages. But one thing remains constant: anesthesia continues to save lives and make surgery possible, says Dr. Brian Blick, a leading board-certified anesthesiologist.

Dr. Blick was inspired to pursue a medical career after being fascinated with both business and medicine. He enrolled at the University of Central Oklahoma, where he concentrated in biology and chemistry, and then went on to Ross University School of Medicine for his residency. He graduated from there in 2013. Dr. Blick completed his internship at the University of Kansas before moving to Elk City, Oklahoma, with his wife Lauren, to begin working as an anesthesiologist.

The history of anesthesia:

Early history:

The earliest recorded use of anesthesia dates back to ancient Egypt in 1550 BCE. At that time, the Egyptians used a mixture of opium and hemlock to numb pain during surgery. However, it wasn’t until much later that anesthesia began to gain traction.

In 1846, American dentist William Morton successfully used ether to anesthetize a patient for surgery. This was a major breakthrough, as it was the first time surgery had been performed without the patient feeling any pain. However, ether had some serious drawbacks. It was highly flammable and often caused patients to vomit or become agitated.

Chloroform was first used as an anesthetic in 1868 by English doctor John Snow. Unlike ether, chloroform was not flammable and did not seem to have the same negative side effects. This made it a much safer option for anesthesia, and it quickly became the preferred choice of doctors.

Modern history:

Today, there are many different types of anesthetics available. The most common include general anesthetics (such as propofol and etomidate), which put patients into a deep sleep; regional anesthetics (such as lidocaine and bupivacaine), which numbs a specific area of the body; and local anesthetics (such as lidocaine and tetracaine), which only numb a small area.

The Pros and Cons:

Each type of anesthetic has its own advantages and disadvantages. For example, general anesthetics can cause side effects such as dizziness, nausea, and vomiting. Regional anesthetics can cause nerve damage if they are not used correctly. And local anesthetics can cause temporary numbness or tingling.


Despite the risks, anesthesia continues to be a vital part of modern medicine. It is estimated that more than 50 million surgeries are performed each year under anesthesia worldwide. without it, many of these surgeries would not be possible.

Anesthesia has come a long way since its early days. Thanks to advances in technology and safety protocols, today it is safer than ever before. And with new types of anesthetics being developed all the time, the future looks bright for this important field of medicine.

Like this article?

Share on Facebook
Share on Twitter
Share on Linkdin
Share on Pinterest