Acetylsalicylic acid (C9H8O4),
more commonly known as Aspirin, is made when salicylic acid (C7H6O3) and acetic anhydride
(CH3CO)2O are synthesized. This process was first discovered by Felix Hoffmann on August 10, 1897, while
looking for a medicine that would alleviate his father's arthritis pain. Originally, salicylic acid was used as the pain reliever,
but it was extremely irritating to its consumers. Reasoning that salicylic acid may be irritating because it is an acid, he
put the compound through a couple of chemical reactions that covered up one of the acidic parts with an acetyl group. After
it was discovered by Hoffmann, Friedrich Bayer & Co. became the first company test Acetylsalicylic acid as a commercial
product and patented it. Unfortunately for Bayer, however, they were forced by the Treaty of Versailles, after World War I,
to give up the patent as reparations.
Aspirin is now used as a means to prevent heart attacks. Ironically, it wasn't released
right away as an over the counter medicine, because the head of the pharmacology department at Bayer considered that Aspirin
represented a danger to the heart. More commonly, Aspirin is used for headaches, muscle and joint aches, reducing fever, and
inflammation. Because of it effectiveness against swelling it is used for treatment of rheumatoid arthritis, rheumatic fever,
and mild infection.
The way that Aspirin works is by stopping the production of prostaglandins in the cells. Prostaglandins
are chemicals that carry the "message" to your brain that you are in pain. The aspirin attaches to an enzyme COX-2, and it
acts as a noncompetitive inhibitor, which means that it doesn't allow it to perform its job to produce Prostaglandins. When
you take Aspirin, it gets absorbed by your stomach or your small intestine, and then it travels through your bloodstream acting
on your whole body. This will go on for about 6 hours, until your liver filters out the Aspirin.
Regardless of its effectiveness,
low cost, and availability, Aspirin is not always the answer. In children under the age of 16, although anyone under 20 is
at risk, Aspirin can cause Reye's syndrome, a rare but deadly illness that can affect the liver and brain. In the 1980's it
was discovered by that there was a common link between Reye's syndrome patients and the ingestion of aspirin. In 1986, it
became mandatory to have warning labels on aspirin-containing products, and to avoid giving this medication for colds, chicken
pox and flu syndromes. Even if you are over 20 years of age, there are still some risks that are associated with the consumption
of Aspirin, especially if is taken on a regular bases. Some of these include stomach irritation, which can vary from heartburn,
nausea, and vomiting to more serious effects like internal bleeding, ulcers, and holes in the stomach or intestines. Also,
large doses of Aspirin can cause loud ringing in the ears, and temporary hearing loss.
To avoid major problems medication
should be used with moderation and a doctor should be consulted before using it as a way to prevent heart attacks and strokes.