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Survey: Americans turn to at-home remedies to avoid ER visits

Study: Some overuse over-the-counter pain meds
Posted at 2:00 PM, Jul 31, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-31 17:07:47-04

About 41% of Americans have turned to at-home remedies to avoid a trip to the ER or urgent care center during the pandemic, according to a new survey released today by DrFirst.

The survey of more than 1,000 U.S. adults, looked at what kinds of at-home remedies Americans are using to avoid hospital visits during the pandemic, how many have been issued new prescriptions, and how doctors are writing those prescriptions.

Prescriptions in a pandemic

The DrFirst survey finds that about a third (33%) of Americans have been prescribed a new medication during the pandemic.

However, almost half (48%) of these say their doctor did not use an e-prescribing system to write the prescription. Instead, 14% were mailed a paper prescription, 22% say their doctor called the pharmacy, and 12% say their doctor faxed the pharmacy.

Eighty-four percent of Americans say that they’ve failed to either fill or refill at least one prescription in the past 12 months.

The medications they say they did not fill include:

- Sleep medication (35%)

- Anti-anxiety or antidepressants medication (34%)

- Antibiotics (27%)

- Birth control (22%)

- Controlled substances containing opioids (21%)

- Medication for erectile dysfunction (19%)

Many people did not take some of their medicines, even after filling the prescriptions. In fact, almost a quarter of Americans say that they have a medication that they did not take in the past 12 months.

The top reasons they give for not taking all their prescribed medications include:

- They are taking too many other medications (30%)

- They don’t think they need the medication or feel better without it (28%)

- They can’t afford it (24%)

- The pills are too big to swallow (20%)

Americans turn to at-home remedies

About a quarter of Americans say they’ve had trouble reaching their healthcare provider during the pandemic. Additionally, 41% say they’ve taken at-home remedies to avoid a visit to the ER or urgent care during the pandemic.

The most common at-home remedies Americans are using during the pandemic include:

- Muscle pain relief, like Tiger Balm, Biofreeze, Arnica or IcyHot (41%)

- Anti-itch treatment, like hydrocortisone, Benadryl or calamine lotion (40%)

- Ointment to treat a burn, like Neosporin, Aquaphor, aloe or Vaseline (37%)

- Splints, braces or Ace bandages (26%)

- Essential oils and other homeopathic remedies (23%)

- CBD oil for pain management or anxiety (21%)

- Medical marijuana (18%)

Men (45%) were more likely than women (35%) to say they’d tried an at-home remedy to avoid visiting the ER or urgent care.

Older Americans (aged 55 and up) were least likely to do so—85% hadn’t tried an at-home remedy to avoid the hospital.

A third of Americans (33%) admit that they’ve snooped in other people’s medicine cabinets.