On a recent Sunday morning, I eased my way through the door of an unassuming gray building. Oversized aviators masked a feeble attempt to block out the bright autumn sun and hide my under-eye circles. A tanned, peppy receptionist cheerfully checked me in. She gave me the once-over and made an educated guess: "Are you here for the Recovery IV?"
Torn between being offended and being ashamed, I just nodded before filling out the necessary paperwork. I’d attended a wedding the night before, and the joy that once came with an open bar was now replaced with the feeling that my skin was made of paper, my mouth was filled with cotton, and my head had become the new home to a relentless woodpecker. The Recovery IV was a last-ditch effort at becoming a fully functioning human again before I headed to my babysitting job, where I’d wrangle a headstrong seven-year-old with a penchant for running up and down stairs shirtless while shout-singing Taylor Swift songs.
(That is to say that a solid hangover cure was very, very necessary.)
Recovery IV services have recently made their way to wellness clinics around the country and have become the Cadillac of hangover cures, putting your old ibuprofen-and-hydrate ritual to shame. While services vary from clinic to clinic, most hangover IV treatments promise to rid you of headaches, nausea, and dehydration through an intravenous drip of fluids, medications for pain and nausea, electrolytes, and vitamin additives (usually a Vitamin B complex for boosted energy).
Too good to be true? Maybe. Many experts are skeptical about whether this treatment actually works, or if it’s just another case of the placebo effect being phenomenally effective. After all, the success stories for IV treatment are mostly anecdotal, with no research to back them up. In fact, one study gave 34 fibromyalgia patients either a Myers’ cocktail IV treatment (a popular mix of magnesium, calcium, B vitamins, and Vitamin C) or a standard solution with no vitamins; regardless of whether they received the extra vitamins or not, all patients reported feeling better after the "treatment" (and hey, a regular saline drip certainly does wonders to help dehydration).
Of course, binge drinking can have long-term effects on your health that aren’t flushed out with a bag of fluids. After a wild night out, you’re at a higher risk of heart attack or stroke for the next week. You might also be increasing your risk of cancer, liver disease, and dementia… the list goes on.
But sometimes we overindulge, and for those mornings after, desperate times call for desperate measures. The big benefit of an IV hangover treatment, according to Dina Pavilonis, M.D., of Green Circle Wellness in Chicago, is that an IV drip allows the nutrients and fluids to skip past your digestive system and go straight into your bloodstream, speeding up your recovery time.
"Typically, vitamins and minerals are given orally, and must be naturally processed by the stomach, liver, and intestines," Pavilonis says. "But as soon as your infusion starts, vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients are circulated through your bloodstream and delivered to cells, where they are immediately available for use."
All this, for only 30 minutes of your time and about $150. Yeah, it costs a pretty penny to feel better fast. By the time I was signing the receipt, I thought, Is this sticker-shock or that fifth vodka-soda rumbling in my stomach?
The current hangover I was staring down was something I hadn’t faced for quite a while. Sure, I had a standing Thursday night date at my college’s preferred bar throughout undergrad, and once I moved to Chicago, the siren song of Wrigleyville and playoff hockey occasionally led to one too many whiskey shots on a weeknight. But gradually, my outings with friends began to revolve around workouts and brunch instead of pregaming and partying.
My boyfriend and I settled into our comfortable (OK, somewhat boring) Friday night routine of watching Shameless and snacking on take-out sushi. And these days when I do go out, I’m usually so terrified of the looming doom associated with hangovers in your late 20s that I’ve become a hydration-obsessed Cinderella, only able to consume water after midnight.
And yet, here I was: hooked up to an IV, shelling out $150 for the promise of a miracle hangover cure because "one more drink" + "it’s a special occasion" + "free alcohol!" = a day full of misery at this point in my life.
I felt weird and a little ashamed, but the truth is, yeah it totally worked: For the rest of the day, I had no headaches and no nausea, and I went to the bathroom about a million times (thanks, extra hydration!).
Still, as I held my arm out for the nurse to remove the IV 30 minutes later, I knew that the kind of bacchanal night that necessitates a Recovery IV just isn’t part of my lifestyle anymore. In the future, I’ll be turning down the all-nighters and rounds of shots. Give me a few beers at the neighborhood bar on a Sunday afternoon or splitting a bottle of wine with a friend on the couch instead. Boring? Maybe. But at least I’ll have an extra $150 in my pocket.
Kristen Geil is a Chicago-based freelance writer who focuses on health, wellness, and happiness. She recently hosted a donut and wine pairing tasting party and it was the best night of her life. You can find her on Instagram and Twitter @KristenGeil.