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In the centuries before anaesthetic, many ways of ameliorating pain were tried out. One method was to bleed the patient to the point of faintness. Another was to inject an infusion of tobacco into the rectum (which, at the very least, must have given the patient something else to think about). The most common treatment was to administer opiates, principally in the form of laudanum, but even the most liberal doses couldn’t mask real pain.

Bill Bryson, At Home: A Short History of Private Life, 2010

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