Aspirin Essay, Research Paper


Andrew Donehoo

January 15, 1997

Aspirin is a white crystalline substance made of carbon, hydrogen, and

oxygen. It is used in the treatment of rheumatic fever, headaches, neuralgia,

colds, and arthritis; reduce temperature and pain. The formula for aspirin is

CH3CO2C6H4CO2H. Aspirin’s scientific name is actylsalicylic acid (ASA). The

main ingredient in ASA is salicylic acid. This ingredient grows in small roots,

leaves, flowers and fruits on plants.

About 100 years ago, a German chemist, Felix Hoffmann, set out to find a

drug that would ease his father’s arthritis without causing severe stomach

irritation that came from sodium salicylate, the standard anti-arthritis

treatment of the time. Hoffmann figured that the acidity of the salicylate made

it hard on the stomach’s lining. He began looking for a less acidic formulation.

His search led him to the synthesization of acetylsalicylic acid. The compound

shared the therapeutic properties of other salicylates, but caused less stomach

irritation. ASA reduced fever, relieved moderate pain, and, at higher doses,

alleviated rheumatic fever and arthritic conditions.

Though Hoffmann was confident that ASA would prove more affective than

other salicylates, but his superiors incorrectly stated that ASA weakens the

heart and that physicians would not subscribe it. Hoffmann’s employer,

Friedrich Bayer and Company, gave ASA its now famous name, aspirin.

It is not yet fully known how aspirin works, but most authorities agree

that it achieves some of its effects by hindering the flow of prostaglandins.

Prostaglandins are hormone-like substances that influence the elasticity of

blood vessels. John Vane, Ph. D., noted that many forms of tissue injury were

followed by the release of prostaglandins. It was proved that prostaglndins

caused redness and fever, common signs of inflammation. Vane’s research showed

that by blocking the flow of prostaglandins, aspirin prevented blood from

aggregating and forming blood clots.

Aspirin can be used for the temporary relief of headaches, painful

discomfort and fever from colds, muscular aches and pains, and temporary relief

to minor pains of arthritis, toothaches, and menstrual pain. Aspirin should not

be used in patients who have an allergic reaction to aspirin and/or nonsteroidal

anti-inflammatory agents.

The usual adult dosage for adults and children over the age of 12 is one

or two tablets with water. This may be repeated every 4 hours as necessary up

to 12 tablets a day or as directed by your doctor. You should not give aspirin

to children under the age of 12. An overdose of 200 to 500 mg/kg is in the

fatal range. Early symptoms of overdose are vomiting, hypernea, hyperactivity,

and convulsions. This progresses quickly to depression, coma, respiratory

failure and collapse. In case of an overdose, intensive supportive therapy

should be instituted immediately. Plasma salicylates levels should be measured

in order to determine the severity of the poisoning and to provide a guide for

therapy. Emptying the stomach should be accomplished as soon as possible.

Children and teenagers should not use aspirin for chicken pox or flu

symptoms before a doctor is consulted. You should not take this product if you

are allergies to aspirin, have asthma, stomach problems that reoccur, gastric

ulcers or bleeding problems unless directed by a doctor. Aspirin should be kept

out of reach of children. In case of an overdose, you should seek professional

assistance or contact a poison control center immediately. If you are pregnant

or nursing a baby, seek the advice of a health professional before taking


Since the discovery of aspirin, it has been proved to prevent or protect

against recurrent strokes, throat cancer, breast cancer, coon cancer, and reduce

the effects of heart attacks and strokes. A heart attack occurs when the is a

blockage of blood flow to the heart muscle. Without adequate blood supply, the

affected area of muscle dies and the heart’s pumping action is either impaired

or stopped altogether. When aspirin is taken, it thins the blood, allowing it

to pass trough the thinner than usual blood vessels. Studies show that people

who take an aspirin on a daily basis have a reduced risk of heart attack or


Though aspirin is taken for granted, it is a product that over a process

of many years, evolved from willow bark into the acetylsalicylic acid that we

take form symptoms ranging from the common cold to heart attacks.

In the top diagram on the next page, the Kolbe Synthesis is shown. It

shows how salicylic acid is produced. The middle diagram shows the process that

turns salicylic acid into acetylsalicylic acid. In the 3-D model of aspirin,

the gray atoms are carbon, the white atoms are hydrogen, and the red atoms are


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