An anesthetic is a drug given to a person before an operation so that he won’t feel pain. Even if you’ve never had a serious operation in a hospital, you probably received an anesthetic at some time in your life.
There are two kinds of anesthetic: general and local. A general anesthetic produces unconsciousness, so that a person can “sleep” through an operation without feeling a thing. A general anesthetic may be a gas that is inhaled or a drug that is injected directly into the bloodstream. The most commonly used are nitrous oxide (laughing gas), ether, chloroform, and sodium pentothal.
Local Anesthetics are usually narcotic drugs that deaden the nerves in the area that is to be treated. Most of the time, they are injected into the spine or directly into the area to be operated on.
The gas that you may receive from a dentist before he drills or pulls your tooth is an example of a general anesthetic. And the novocain he injects into your gum to deaden the feeling there is an example of a local anesthetic.
Some doctors today also use acupuncture, the ancient Chinese method of inserting needles at certain points on the body, to produce anesthesia. The patient is conscious during the surgery and is said to feel little or no pain.