You had a wild Saturday night, and now you’ve suffering. Your bottle of Gatorade and bacon egg and cheese sandwich aren’t helping. And you’re starting to feel like you’d do anything to get your hands on a hangover cure.
Been there? We feel your pain.
Now what if we told you there was a service out there promising to rid you of your hangover — and help you start feeling human again — in as little as 30 minutes?
That’s the promise being made by increasingly popular “hydration therapy centers,” aka hangover clinics. Instead of relying on your go-to remedies like H20 and greasy food (or this Ultimate Hangover Helper Smoothie), these facilities will hook you up to an IV and pump you full of fluids and medication, leaving you rehydrated and ready to move on with your day.
But can the recovery process be that easy? Before you make an appointment, get the scoop on whether you can really flush away a nasty hangover.
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Hydration Therapy: Your Hangover Helper?
In big cities across the country, hydration therapy centers are emerging as the holy grail of hangover cures. Since alcohol can cause dehydration, these centers focus on rehydrating the body in the fastest way possible: by administering fluids and medication directly into your bloodstream through an IV.
“This treatment [hydration therapy] has been around in ERs to treat dehydration for a long time. If you get fluid into your body, you’ll feel better within 30 minutes,” says Dr. Adam Nadelson, a general surgeon who founded The I.V. Doc, which offers in-home services in New York City, the Hamptons, Los Angeles and Chicago. Approximately half of those calling The I.V. Doc are seeking relief from a bad hangover. The other half? They suffer from jetlag, a cold or even food poisoning.
“Most peer-reviewed medical literature would suggest that simply drinking fluids by mouth may be the best solution.”
“We tailor the treatment to the individual and use their presenting symptoms as a guide,” says Dr. Jack Dybis, a trauma and general surgeon and founder of IVme, a spa-like clinic with two locations in Chicago. Medical staff members, typically a doctor, nurse or physician assistant will take each patient’s medical history and vitals to ensure that they are healthy and that there are no contraindications such as a heart or kidney condition. And if you’re actively intoxicated, don’t expect to be served.
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A typical hangover treatment includes fluids and vitamins such as B complex, which Dr. Dybis says can help boost energy. Plus, they pump you with various medicines such as Zofran, to provide symptomatic relief of nausea, Pepcid for heartburn, and Toradol for headache or body aches. It takes between 30 minutes to an hour to administer and the clinics say visitors are monitored while they receive treatment.
Most devotees of these treatments are young and healthy. “Generally, patients are on-the-go. It’s someone who’s busy and can’t miss that day of work. They’re burning the candle at both ends,” says Dr. Nadelson. “We can step in and help them out for 30 minutes so that they are able to continue conducting business.”
Similar centers exist in Los Angeles, Las Vegas and New Orleans. IVme will soon debut locations in Nashville, Omaha and Atlanta, while The I.V. Doc has its eyes set on San Francisco and Miami.
To Drip or Not to Drip for a Hangover Cure?
While hydration therapy may bring you instant relief, it comes at a cost. Treatments range from $119 at IVme to $250 for The I.V. Doc’s services. But is it worth the price?
“Unless they are severely dehydrated, I would not suggest IV therapy,” says Dr. Joseph Newberg, Immediate Care Physician at Northwestern Medical Group. According to Dr. David King, trauma and acute care surgeon at the Massachusetts General Hospital Trauma Center and Assistant Professor of Surgery at Harvard Medical School, “The type of therapy proposed [on the websites] is misleading. There is no evidence that IV fluid therapy detoxifies, cleanses or revives anything. In fact, most peer-reviewed medical literature would suggest that simply drinking fluids by mouth may be the best solution to most fluid and electrolyte abnormalities.”
Plus, as with any medical procedure, there’s some risk involved. “Complications of IV therapy would include leakage of the fluid into the soft tissue and infection at the site,” says Dr. Ray Wedderburn, Chief, Division of Trauma and Critical Care Surgery at St. Luke’s Roosevelt Hospital Center in New York City. Other side effects may include allergic reaction to the medications administered — or even blood clots. When an IV is administered it essentially creates a wound in the vein, and the body forms clots in order to heal that injury. In most cases, this may cause tenderness and bruising at the site. But in very rare instances, clots can lead to more serious complications.
While hydration therapy centers take a medical history, it is possible to miss something. “Unless you’re doing a really good intake and history, you may think that they have a hangover when they might have a serious infection.” says Dr. Newberg. According to Dr. Wedderburn, “One issue would be to ensure that the diagnosis is correct and IV treatment appropriate, for example mistaking acute appendicitis for gastroenteritis [food poisoning].”
“I understand the urge for the consumer who is looking for the quick fix to a bad hangover, but if they are drinking to the point that they are sick the next morning, there might be another problem. There’s a risk that you’re enabling another behavior that, in the natural course of events like a bad hangover, would teach them not to drink so much,” says Dr. Newberg.
The best cure for a hangover? Try not to drink so much. Or, Dr. Newberg recommends drinking a large glass of water between each drink. We’ve even got this 24-hour timeline to help you avoid the post-party pain.
Originally posted October 22, 2014. Updated December 2015.