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What is Aspirin?

Aspirin is a painkiller that belongs to a group of medications called non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). 

NSAIDs help manage different health conditions, such as arthritis or menstrual cramps, and can provide pain and fever relief. Other common NSAIDs include ibuprofen, naproxen, and prescription celecoxib. 

Healthcare providers may prescribe aspirin depending on the severity of the condition. Individuals may also purchase over-the-counter (OTC) aspirin. However, OTC medications will not be as strong as prescription aspirin.

Aspirin

 

Prescription aspirin can treat symptoms caused by the following conditions:

  • Rheumatoid arthritis (due to inflammation of the lining of the joints)
  • Osteoarthritis (due to decomposition of the lining of the joints)
  • Systemic lupus erythematosus (a condition in which the body releases an immune response against itself and causes pain and inflammation)
  • Other rheumatologic issues

Non-prescription aspirin can help alleviate health problems, such as:

  • Fever 
  • Mild-to-moderate headaches 
  • Menstrual periods
  • Colds
  • Toothaches 
  • Muscle aches

Additionally, healthcare providers may recommend nonprescription aspirin to prevent recurrent heart attacks and lower the risk of death among individuals who are experiencing or have recently suffered a heart attack. Aspirin can also help prevent ischemic strokes (when a blood clot obstructs blood flow to the brain) and mini-strokes (when the blow flow to the brain remains blocked for a short period) in individuals who already experienced these health problems in the past. 

Side Effects of Aspirin

Common side effects of aspirin include:

  • Mild indigestion (stomach aches) It is recommended to take aspirin with food to lower the likelihood of digestive problems. 
  • Bleed more easily — Aspirin acts as a blood thinner, which means that it is more difficult for the body to produce platelets for clotting. Individuals taking aspirin may experience nosebleeds, bruise more quickly, or have more extended periods of bleeding when cut. 

In more serious cases, individuals may report these side effects:

  • Red, blistered, and peeling skin 
  • Blood in pee, stool, or vomit
  • Jaundice (yellow skin or eyes) due to liver damage
  • Joint pain/swelling in the hands and feet

In rare cases, individuals may experience an extreme allergic reaction to aspirin called anaphylaxis. 

Individuals should not take aspirin with ibuprofen or naproxen without consulting a healthcare provider. These three medications are NSAIDs, which means that the drug combination could raise the likelihood of side effects, such as stomach aches. However, it is safe to take aspirin with paracetamol.

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Can I Drink Alcohol and Take Aspirin?

Individuals should not drink alcohol and take aspirin at the same time. 

Excessive alcohol consumption while taking aspirin could contribute to indigestion problems and increase the risk of stomach ulcers. It is also important to remember that alcohol may affect how the body absorbs and metabolizes aspirin, possibly delaying the drug’s effects. 

That said, if individuals do drink alcohol, they should consult their doctor or the drug information pamphlet to confirm when to take aspirin. Knowing the timing can lower the chances of problems caused by alcohol-aspirin interactions. 

To minimize the risk of severe side effects, individuals with an alcohol use disorder or who have chronic alcohol use problems should not take aspirin without speaking to a healthcare provider first.

Side Effects of Mixing Aspirin and Alcohol

When individuals mix aspirin and alcohol, they can experience different side effects. 

First, aspirin alone could contribute to gastrointestinal bleeding (stomach bleeding), ulcers, or holes. Warning symptoms do not appear, and in extreme cases, death can result. 

When individuals consume alcoholic beverages (especially if more than a moderate amount), the risk of experiencing these side effects increases. For example, aspirin helps inhibit platelet formation, and individuals can bleed more easily. Because alcohol can increase blood pressure, individuals taking aspirin may experience prolonged bleeding. 

It is equally important to remember that alcohol (also known as ethanol) is a central nervous system depressant. This means that side effects, like sleepiness, lightheadedness, or difficulty breathing, can arise. With aspirin use, these side effects can worsen due to interactions between alcohol and the painkiller.

Risks of Mixing Aspirin and Alcohol 

There are many risks associated with aspirin and alcohol. Due to drug-alcohol interactions, individuals can experience worse and unwanted side effects. 

The risk of death due to overdose is also possible. If individuals overdose on aspirin, alcohol consumption may increase the severity of these symptoms:

  • Vomiting
  • Decreased urination
  • Dizziness 
  • Hallucinations
  • Drowsiness
  • Unconsciousness
  • Irritability

Finally, the risk of drug-alcohol interactions is higher in women and the elderly. Both women and the elderly have challenges metabolizing alcohol. This means that the alcoholic beverage can exist longer in the body and interact with the aspirin. 

How Long After I Drink Alcohol Can I Take Aspirin?

It is important to check the drug’s information pamphlet to confirm. However, if an individual consumes only one standard alcoholic beverage (14 grams of pure alcohol), the liver will have metabolized the drink in approximately 1 hour. 

You can take the aspirin within an hour of having one standard drink (for women of all ages and men older than 65) or two standard drinks (for men aged 65 or younger).

If an individual does not consume a moderate amount of alcohol, it is best to wait at least a day to minimize the likelihood of health problems. The more alcohol an individual has (i.e., the higher the blood alcohol concentrations), the more time the body needs to metabolize the beverage and avoid aspirin-alcohol interactions. 

Alcohol consumption can affect how the body absorbs aspirin. If possible, it is recommended to avoid drinking while taking aspirin to ensure that the pain reliever works as effectively as it should. 

Additionally, individuals are encouraged to consult medical advice with any questions or concerns.

Treatment for Aspirin and Alcohol Abuse

If you or a loved one face problems with aspirin and alcohol abuse, various therapy options are available, such as:

  • Supervised detoxification or withdrawal process
  • Rehab and support groups 
  • Medical treatments 
  • Counseling 
  • Medication-assisted treatment (MAT)

Medication-assisted treatment could help reduce alcohol use and support abstinence in many individuals who abuse and/or are dependent on alcohol. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) sessions could equip individuals with the necessary coping skills to deal with triggers or situations that could lead to alcohol consumption. Medications like naltrexone, acamprosate, and disulfiram may be options in treating alcoholism.

Recovery, although challenging, is within reach. 

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Resources

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“Aspirin for Pain Relief.” NHS Choices, NHS, 15AD, 2018, www.nhs.uk/medicines/aspirin-for-pain-relief/.

“Aspirin: MedlinePlus Drug Information.” MedlinePlus, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 15 Nov. 2020, medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a682878.html.

DURLAZA (Aspirin) Extended Release Capsules, for Oral Use, 2015. www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2015/200671s000lbl.pdf.

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