Last published: June 17, 2019
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
- swollen, red and tender body tissues
- rheumatoid arthritis
- rheumatic fever.1
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:
- soluble powders and tablets
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®|
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.
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, constipation.1
If the dose is too high, you might overdose. Call an ambulance straight away by dialling triple zero (000) if you have any of these symptoms (ambulance officers do not have to involve the police):
- rapid and shallow breathing
- stop breathing, coma and death.1
It’s best to discuss the side effects of long term use with a medical practitioner. However, regular use of aspirin may eventually cause:
- 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 function.3
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
- Upfal J. (2006) The Australian Drug Guide (7th Ed.) Melbourne: Black Inc.
- Medline Plus. (2015). Aspirin overdose.
- National Kidney Foundation. (2017). Watch out for Your Kidneys When You Use Medicines for Pain.