Dave Dickens woke up one morning last October in Key West wishing he hadn't. "It feels like somebody is hitting me with a baseball bat in the head," recalls Dickens, a 60-year-old "play hard, live hard" kind of guy who had knocked back more than a few drinks the night before.
So when he passed an IV clinic – advertised as a hangover cure – later that morning, he went in, remembering the time a friend's wife had gone to the emergency room to get an IV after drinking too much. The 45-minute treatment, which involved an intravenous infusion of vitamin-rich fluids, turned Dickens' vacation around. While that morning, he had sworn off alcohol forever, that night, he hit the town again.
"It was unbelievable," says Dickens, who owns a car dealership in Chicago. "Right away, you start feeling it, but 45 minutes later, you feel almost 100 percent – no hangover." He's since been to IV clinics in New Orleans, San Francisco, South Carolina, Atlanta and visits one locally near-weekly – hungover or not. "It just makes me feel better – it's amazing," he says.
IV therapy has been used for decades in hospitals to treat a range of conditions, from dehydration to nutrient-absorption disorders, but it's increasingly offered at independent clinics and through house call-type services that pledge to help people feel better without clogging already-burdened emergency departments. And, while it may be most buzzed about as a hangover cure in party cities like Las Vegas, New Orleans and Los Angeles, IV therapy is also given to people with migraines, fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome, as well as those who want a nutritional, athletic, energy, beauty or immunity boost.
"It works because if you look at vitamins and minerals, along with hormones and other chemicals in the body, these are the body’s building blocks; they’re our body’s natural pharmacy, and they’re used in numerous physiological pathways,” Dr. Jason Hartman, an osteopathic medicine physician who founded and directs RestoreIV in Philadelphia, says. “Those pathways get taxed, and that’s why [the therapy] is amenable to these numerous conditions.”
The contents of the drips vary depending on the patient's aim, but many, including the popular Myers' cocktail, contain magnesium, vitamin C, calcium and some B vitamins. The claim? By delivering a high concentration of vitamins and minerals straight to the bloodstream, the body can reap their benefits more effectively than popping pills, which aren't entirely absorbed through the gastrointestinal tract.
"What you put in your body controls how your cells function at the cellular level, and when your cells are working properly, your organs are working properly, and when your organs are working properly and optimally, your overall health improves," explains Dr. Maurice Beer, an internal medicine physician who co-founded and directs The Hangover Club and NutriDrip, two such services in New York City. "In most cases, people just feel better – their energy improves, they sleep better and just feel lighter," he adds.
For Kara, a 42-year-old in Delaware whose last name has been kept private, visiting RestoreIV about a year ago warded off the dizziness, fatigue and various stomach issues she'd been experiencing since undergoing bariatric surgery several years before. "I was just surprised at how it changed my ability to function in the world and to do my job because the lethargy really went away," says Kara, who works for the headquarters of a large retail company in Philadelphia. Plus, the injections of magnesium, B-complex, vitamin B12, vitamin C and the antioxidant glutathion, which she now receives every other week, allow her to take just a couple oral supplements a day; before, she took 60 because her weight-loss surgery limited the amount of nutrients her body could absorb through food alone.
"Now I feel really positive about [the procedure]," she says. "There was a period there where I was questioning whether it was the right move."