What does aspirin do to the body in toxic doses?

Aspirin poisoning can produce a serious condition. If not treated correctly, it could even lead to death.

Acetylsalicylic acid, popularly called “aspirin”, comes from salicin, a substance found in the bark of the white willow tree, and its use dates back to the time of the Sumerians.

Aspirin in the blood breaks down into acetyl group and salicylic acid. Well, this salicylic acid is transformed into salicylate and releases hydrogen ions.

On the one hand, hydrogen ions are molecules that alter the pH of the blood; that is, they acidify the blood and that translates into a decrease in pH.

In a normal situation, the body has mechanisms to avoid this acidification, but when the dose is very high, these resources are spent and the so-called metabolic acidosis is created.

On the other hand, salicylate damages the mitochondria that are the energy factories of the cells. Specifically, it damages the final process that involves storing the energy produced in a molecule called ATP.

In a normal situation, this damage would not happen in the mitochondria because salicylate binds to other molecules in the liver so that it can be eliminated via the kidneys and does not accumulate in the blood.

However, if there are too many salicylates, the liver cannot cope and therefore accumulates in the blood and enters the tissues, causing mitochondrial damage.