There are few things aspirin can't do. In addition to fighting headaches, arthritis and sundry other aches and pains, the so-called wonder drug has been demonstrated as effective in preventing heart attacks and some kinds of strokes. But, contrary to what many think, one thing that should not be done with aspirin is to mix it with alcohol.

In a paper published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers at the Veterans Administration Medical Center in the Bronx found that taking aspirin one hour before drinking significantly increases the concentration of alcohol in the blood.

Previously, studies in both rats and humans had failed to show any effect of aspirin on blood alcohol concentrations. But, according to the scientists, this was because the studies were conducted on people drinking on an empty stomach. In those cases, without food to slow alcohol's effects, blood levels became elevated so quickly that whatever extra effect the aspirin had was irrelevant.

In studying subjects who had eaten an hour previously, however, a significant difference was found. What aspirin appears to do is to slow down the action of gastric alcohol dehydrogenase, the enzyme in the stomach that breaks down alcohol.

The effect of aspirin, the scientists wrote, "can be of clinical significance for individuals driving cars or operating other machinery that requires a high degree of mental and motor coordination."