Rethinking Healthcare

Aspirin research proves all drugs are drugs

Aspirin research proves all drugs are drugs

Posting in Cancer

We often think that if a drug is available over-the-counter it's candy. It's not. It can still be an important subject of research, and it can still be abused. Take aspirin, for instance.

In the comments about my recent piece on Ritalin and ADHD, a theme I read over-and-over again was that, regardless of how stimulants work, or how well they work against ADHD symptoms, they're still stimulants, still drugs, and they need to be treated with respect.

Amen to that. And amen in relation to all drugs.

We often think that if a drug is available over-the-counter it's candy. It's not. It can still be an important subject of research, and it can still be abused.

Take aspirin, for instance.

The big news about aspirin today is that it can reduce the risks of death from colon cancer. It can also help protect people with Lynch Syndrome, a genetic condition, from getting this cancer.

Powerful stuff. I personally take a small aspirin each night because I have high cholesterol and hypertension. My doctor recommends it to help reduce my risk of heart attack.

But aspirin can also kill you. Even half the dose I take (83 mg.) increased the risk of brain or stomach bleeding requiring a transfusion by 40% in one recent study.

Aspirin was one of the first wonder drugs. It was first sold in 1900. Within four years its maker, Bayer, was making enough to start a soccer team, which still plays in Germany's top flight. (Landon Donovan played on Bayer's reserves for years before coming back to America. Now he gives Germans headaches.)

But a wonder drug, even one that has been on the market for over a century, one your kid can buy over-the-counter in any drug store, is still a drug.

For both good and for ill.

This is not a bad deal. There is a lot we don't know about nearly every substance out there, which means there may be more uses for common medications than we credit.

This still makes me wonder about the wisdom of selling even aspirin in 1,000 pill lots. Two in the mouth may kill a headache, even a hangover. That does not make it candy.

It's time to rethink our attitude toward all drugs, even the most common ones, and be adult about them.

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Dana Blankenhorn

Contributing Editor

Contributing Editor Dana Blankenhorn has written for the Chicago Tribune, Advertising Age's "NetMarketing" supplement and founded the Interactive Age Daily for CMP Media. He holds degrees from Rice and Northwestern universities. He is based in Atlanta. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure