Aspirin and poetry: Did João Cabral de Melo Neto suffer from acetylsalicylic acid-overuse headache?




Headache Disorders, Secondary, Aspirin, Poetry



João Cabral de Melo Neto is considered one of the most important Brazilian poets of all time. He suffered from severe headaches for the longest part of his life, being diagnosed with migraine. He took a significant amount of acetylsalicylic acid pills every day for many years.


The objective of this narrative review includes identifying how headache and its treatment influenced João Cabral de Melo Neto's poetry as well as analyzing the correlation between Melo Neto's migraine diagnosis and his documented overuse of aspirin and investigating the possibility of an acetylsalicylic acid-overuse headache diagnosis.


 The authors thoroughly read biographical books and interviews about the life of João Cabral de Melo Neto. They systematically documented all references to headaches and aspirin. Melo Neto's clinical case documented in his biography and interviews were juxtaposed with The International Classification of Headache Disorders (ICHD-3) diagnostic criteria for acetylsalicylic acid-overuse headache diagnosis.


The word “aspirin” appears 8 times in 6 of Melo Neto’s poems. He compares it to the sun, attributing to it the capacity to refocus a "blurred body" (his state during a headache). The poet reported that took one aspirin pill every hour every day, for several years.


Headache and the use of acetylsalicylic acid influenced João Cabral de Melo Neto’s poetry and life. He presented a risk behavior for developing medication overuse headache, specifically its subform: acetylsalicylic acid-overuse headache.



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Marques I. João Cabral de Melo Neto: Uma Biografia. 560p [s.l.] Todavia, 2021.

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Melo Neto JC and Secchin AC. Poesia Completa. 896p Rio de Janeiro: Alfaguara, 2020.




How to Cite

Cardoso M, Meneses Neto P, Silva-Néto RP. Aspirin and poetry: Did João Cabral de Melo Neto suffer from acetylsalicylic acid-overuse headache?. Headache Med [Internet]. 2023 Dec. 30 [cited 2024 Apr. 19];14(4):203-5. Available from:




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