I'm the kind of person who'll drink two glasses of wine at dinner and wake up with a splitting headache, a dry mouth, and not even enough energy to leave my bed. Due to this trait, I'm constantly on the lookout for something that'll cure my day-after drinking symptoms. And yes, I've done the whole "chase every drink with a glass of water" thing and it kind of works. But I couldn't help but think that there must be an easier way — one that doesn't send me sprinting to the bathroom every five seconds.
One wellness trend claims to offer a solution: vitamin- and nutrient-filled IV drips. Yep, that kind of IV. Like, a bag of enriched saline, pumped into your body via a needle inserted into one of your veins. Instead of the hospital, you can get these IVs at trendy spa-like studios like The Hangover Club and Drip Hydration.
The drips have been around for a while. But every so often another celeb will start talking about their love for the treatment — Adele, Chrissy Teigen, and Jane Fonda are all allegedly fans — and they'll be back in the headlines as the Next Big Thing to try.
But as you might expect from what's essentially a recreational IV, they've also caused some controversy. Back in 2018, for example, Kendall Jenner had to be hospitalized after some medical complications from an IV drip given to her before an Oscars after party.
Extreme? Yes. Scary? Maybe. Still, when I was invited to check out Clean Market, a wellness cafe and market that offers infrared sauna sessions and tons of IV drips ranging from hangover cures to beauty-focused cocktails, I couldn't resist an opportunity to try it myself. Maybe this was the cure for my increasing disposition toward hangovers.
The only rub was that on the day of my appointment, I wasn't hungover. Whoops. Luckily, my nurse assured me that the right drip could also prevent any hangover I might have tomorrow. This was good news for me — it was a Friday, and I had plans to go out that night.
After asking me a few questions about my medical history, the nurse and I settled on a Mega Recovery drip, which is the most intense of Clean Market's hangover IVs. Their website describes it as, "Electrolyte hydration combined with a powerful prescription-strength medication, B12, B-Complex, Magnesium, and Vitamin C, finished with a push of Glutathione", and says it "helps soothe nausea, dizziness, and muscle pain." Bring it on!
At first, I was led to a semi-private area that reminded me of a waiting room of a trendy doctor's office. Each corner had a little drip station, with a comfy chair, an ottoman, and a side table complete with food menus in case you get hungry during your session. There were three other people getting IV drips; Clean Market offers a pretty extensive list of options. They all seemed pretty chill, despite the fact that they were about to have a needle put into their arms. Something told me that none of these people were first-timers.
For my session, I was moved into a completely private room complete with a massage chair and a TV — talk about an upgrade.
Once I was settled and I'd cued up a rerun of Friends, the nurse came in, set up my IV, and let me chill out as the bag emptied itself into my arm, which took around 45 minutes. Once it was over, I was out the door and on my way. Although I was warned that I might be a tad nauseated after my session, I felt totally normal. But the real test was coming.
I wanted to know whether the drip could really prevent a hangover, and I didn't want to leave much room for doubt. So — in the name of science, okay? — I decided to let myself drink a little more than I normally would. I had one beer at dinner, a couple more during a hockey game at Madison Square Garden (go Rangers!), and to cap off the night, one margarita at a restaurant near Columbus Circle. Usually, this would be enough make me feel hungover in the morning.
And... surprise, surprise, I woke up feeling pretty damn good. Maybe a little tired, but no sign of the headache and nausea I'd usually be dealing with after a night on the town. I was able to get up, get out of bed, and even venture outdoors to get some breakfast. Success! But I was a little suspicious that the placebo effect was at play, so I decided to ask a doctor what they thought about these trendy IV procedures.
"[IV drips] haven't been shown to be consistently effective in medical trials," says Ali S. Raja, MD, executive vice chairman of the Department of Emergency Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital and associate professor at Harvard Medical School. "I'd love to have a cocktail of medications that would allow me to send my patients home faster and feeling better after a rough Saturday night, but that just isn't the way it works." Rats.
Dr. Raja notes that if a patient is profoundly malnourished or very dehydrated, certain vitamins or the fluid alone may be useful. But patients going to get IVs after a night out typically aren't either of those things, and they're unlikely to benefit in any measurable way.
"If patients feel better after IV drips, it's very likely that they would have felt better anyway in the same amount of time without the drips," Dr. Raja continues. "However, the placebo effect is powerful, and the feeling that they're doing something to help themselves feel less hungover can definitely contribute to how much better they feel after the IV drips." (I knew it!)
Another factor to consider: Receiving an IV drip is a medical procedure that can come with complications. "IV sites can bleed, get infected, and leave scars if not done properly," Dr. Raja says. "Some patients, especially those with heart or kidney disease, can get overloaded with fluid and should only receive IV fluid if ordered by a clinician."
These IV drips aren't regulated by the Food and Drug Administration either — so, unless you have a physician specifically prescribe you one, you can't know whether the fluid going into your bloodstream is entirely safe.
The best "cure" for a hangover is simple. Drink alcohol in moderation and stay hydrated. You can still enjoy yourself, but you won't need to endure an entire medical procedure to get you through the next morning.
As to whether or not I would sit through an IV again, I'm on the fence. Spending $200 on a supposed hangover cure doesn't really agree with my bank account at the moment. (Oh yeah, the treatments are expensive.) If I had somewhere important to be the morning after a night of drinking, maybe I'd drag myself in for another drip. But if it's all down to the placebo effect... I may try another, cheaper hangover cure first. Eating a big meal, say. Thanks to delivery, I wouldn't even have to leave my house.