Taking a couple aspirins with a cocktail can get you drunker, doctors warned this week.

Aspirin blocks the action of a stomach enzyme that breaks down alcohol before it reaches the bloodstream, researchers reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association."It's important that people be warned not to mix those two - not to take aspirin before they drink, or rather, not to drink after they take aspirin," Dr. Charles S. Lieber, director of the Alcohol Research Center at the Bronx Veterans Affairs Medical Center in New York, said in a telephone interview.

He and his colleagues studied aspirin and alcohol absorption in five healthy men ages 30 to 45 years.

Each man ate a standard breakfast, then an hour later drank a glass of juice containing three grams of alcohol per kilogram of body weight - about 1 1/2 drinks for an average-size man, Lieber said.

The men underwent the procedure again, but first took one gram of aspirin - the equivalent of two extra-strength tablets - with breakfast.

"There was a 34 percent increase in the blood level of alcohol," Lieber said.

The same effect could occur on an empty stomach, but previous studies have failed to show it, possibly because alcohol remains in an empty stomach so briefly, the researchers said.

Women would probably be more susceptible, said Lieber, who has reported previously that women produce proportionally less of the enzyme in their stomachs.

Dr. Ernest P. Noble, director of the Alcohol Research Center at the University of California in Los Angeles, said the findings are important because many people consider aspirin a "magic drug" that can protect against heart attacks.

"If they're going to do their drinking, they should do it with a full stomach, and not taking aspirin," said Noble, former director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

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NOVEMBER 15, 1990