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Aspirin facts

What is aspirin? 

Effects of aspirin 

Further information 

 

pdficon small Download the Aspirin fact sheet [PDF:304KB]

Please note: The information given on this page is not medical advice and should not be relied on in this way. Individuals wanting medical advice on this issue should consult a health professional.

What is aspirin?

Aspirin (acetylsalicylic acid) is a pharmaceutical drug used to reduce pain and/or inflammation. It is classified as a 'Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAID)'.

Aspirin can be used to treat:

  • Mild to moderate pain
  • Fever
  • Swollen, red and tender body tissues
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Rheumatic fever1

 
It is also used in the prevention of blood clots, heart attacks, strokes and bowel cancer1.

Some people misuse aspirin by intentionally taking more than the recommended dose in a mistaken attempt to get 'high', or as an act of self-harm2.

Aspirin is usually swallowed and comes in different forms including:

  • Tablets
  • Capsules
  • Suppositories
  • Soluble powders and tablets
  • Liquids1

Other names

Aspirin may also be known by its brand or trade names. Some common examples include:

Generic name  Brand names
 Aspirin  Aspro Clear®, Disprin®
 Aspirin and codeine  Aspalgin®, Codral Cold & Flu Original®1

Effects of aspirin

There is no safe level of drug use. Use of any drug always carries some risk – even medications can produce unwanted side effects. It's important to be careful when taking any type of drug.

Aspirin affects everyone differently, based on:

  • Size, weight and health
  • Whether the person is used to taking it
  • Whether other drugs are taken around the same time
  • The amount taken

Side effects

The most common side effects of aspirin are:

  • Dizziness, ringing in the ears, blurred vision
  • Drowsiness, fatigue, depression
  • Thirst, sweating, fluid retention, swollen ankles
  • Abdominal discomfort or bloating
  • Nausea, heartburn, diarrhoea, constipation1

Overdose

If the dose is too high, the following symptoms may be experienced. If any of the following effects are experienced an ambulance should be called straight away by dialling triple zero (000).

  • Headaches
  • Confusion
  • Fever
  • Deafness
  • Vomiting
  • Rapid and shallow breathing
  • Seizures
  • Stop breathing, coma and death1

Long-term effects

Regular use of aspirin may eventually cause the following effects. It's best to discuss the side effects of long term use with a medical practitioner.

  • Anaemia (low red blood cell count)
  • Easy bruising and abnormal bleeding
  • Inflamed stomach lining, stomach bleeding and peptic ulcers
  • Vomiting blood that may look like coffee grounds and bowel motions that look like black tar
  • An allergic-type reaction, wheezy breathing and a tightness in the chest in adults, hives in children, and in some rare cases swelling of the face, lips, tongue or around the eyes
  • Reduced kidney and liver function3

Using aspirin with other drugs

The effects of taking aspirin with other drugs, including alcohol, prescription medications and other over-the-counter medicines, are often unpredictable.

Aspirin taken with alcohol can increase the risk of stomach irritation and discomfort.1

Aspirin can alter the effects of some blood pressure medicines and  may increase the risk of bleeding if taken with medicines such as warfarin.1

Further information

Statistics

Reducing the risks

Resources

 

ADF SEARCH – Find further credible research and information on aspirin.

ADIN – Find other credible websites and apps on analgesics.

References

1. Upfal J. (2006) The Australian Drug Guide (7th Ed.) Melbourne: Black Inc.

2. Perez, E. (2013). Aspirin overdose.

3. National Heart Foundation of Australia. (2009). Aspirin [PDF:130KB].

Last updated: 3 May 2016

Information you heard is intended as a general guide only. This audio is copyrighted by the Australian Drug Foundation. Visit www.DrugInfo.ADF.org.au for more