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

Category: Science