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Last updated : June 24, 2017

What is aspirin?

Aspirin (acetylsalicylic acid) is a pharmaceutical drug used to reduce pain or inflammation. It is classified as a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (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 cancer.1

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-harm.2

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 nameBrand names
Aspirin Aspro Clear®, Disprin®
Aspirin and codeine Aspalgin®, Codral Cold & Flu Original®

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, you might overdose. If you have any of these symptoms, call an ambulance  straight away by dialling triple zero (000). Ambulance officers do not have to involve the police.

  • 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 + alcohol: can increase the risk of stomach irritation and discomfort.1

Aspirin + warfarin or some blood pressure medicines: may increase the risk of bleeding.1

References

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

2. Medline Plus. (2015). Aspirin overdose.

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


Effects

abdominal pain, ankle swelling, anti-inflammatory, blurred vision, confusion, constipation, depression, diarrhoea, dizziness, drowsiness, fatigue, fluid retention, headache, nausea, ringing ears, seizures, tingling in hands and feet, treats arthritis, treats fever, treats inflammation, treats mild pain, treats moderate pain, vomiting.

AKA

aspro clear, disprin.