Is Aspirin Safe?

Is aspirin safe? Richard Pearce, Ph.D., turns to the best research available in 1985 to answer this question.

| January/February 1985

NOTE: This article was published in 1985. Though the author references several of the time's most compelling aspirin research, MOTHER EARTH NEWS recommends turning to more recent research and your physician for more answers about the safety of aspirin today. 

It's in more purses, desk drawers and medicine cabinets than any other drug. It's a mainstay for headaches, fevers, arthritis, colds, cramps, aches and pains. It's the subject of countless physicians' recommendations to "take two and call me in the morning." It's acetylsalicylic acid — aspirin — and no drug in history has been taken so casually by so many for so long. But is aspirin safe?

For many consumers, recent research has elevated aspirin's status from that of a simple pain reliever to that of a potential wonder drug.

Some scientists say it may be able to prevent everything from heart attack and stroke to cataracts, gallstones and sickle-cell anemia.

But don't rush to your medicine chest just yet. For every study showing that aspirin might have newfound benefits, there's another showing new risks. Pregnant women are advised to avoid it altogether. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) may order manufacturers to add cautionary labels to the drug, warning consumers not to give it to children with fevers because of its association — widely noted but still unproven — with potentially fatal Reye's syndrome.

Like all drugs, aspirin is a double-edged sword, and today both edges cut deeper than ever before.

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