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10 Bizarre Therapies in Mental Illness Treatment History

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9. Fever Therapy

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It sounds counter-intuitive but one doctor found that the best weapon against a malady is another malady. In the late 1800s, fever therapy (also known as pyrotherapy) was all the rage after it successfully alleviated the symptoms of patients suffering from neurosyphilis also known as general paresis of the insane (GPI). The treatment was pioneered by Viennese psychiatrist Julius Wagner-Juaregg who won a Nobel Prize in 1927 for “curing” a patient’s syphilis-caused psychosis by artificially inducing them with fever. The treatment entailed the elevation of the patient’s body temperature by injecting them with malaria-infected blood taken from another person. At that time, blood groups were only recently discovered and little consideration was given to it when transfusing blood between patients. Many doctors began adopting this radical and seemingly effective treatment until Penicillin came along in the mid 1940s. In the 1930s, machines were developed that could reproduce the same thermogenic effects of fever therapy without subjecting patients to undue illness. Alternate forms of pyrotherapy employ the use of hot baths and electric blankets to raise temperature.


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