The ancient Greeks ate sheep lungs, while sicilians choked down dried bull penis. After a big night out, writer Marci Robin waves in the newest miracle fix: a medical-grade IV drip.
It's a typical Thursday afternoon. I'm sitting in a glass-walled conference room answering texts from my boss and admiring the view of New Jersey from my Lower Manhattan office building. Colleagues hustle past, too busy to notice the two things that make this Thursday unlike any other: I have a ruthless hangover, and there's a nurse named Emily administering an IV drip in an effort to "cure" it.
"Your veins are smaller than some of the babies' I've treated," Emily says, peering around my arms for a place to insert the IV needle. To clarify, Emily hasn't been administering hangover treatments to babies; when not on call for NutriDrip, she works in labor and delivery at a hospital—or does models' nails for editorial shoots and fashion shows. She's a renaissance woman, that Emily.
She takes my right hand and expertly inserts the needle into a practically invisible blue line under my skin. I distract myself by looking away, out the conference room toward the Hudson River. Truth be told, the tiny pinch pales in comparison to the hangover itself. At the moment, my eyebrows seem like the only things keeping my brain from exploding out of my head. If I could see my liver right now, I imagine it would look like a self-twisting balloon animal.
I knew I would have a violent hangover after my uncharacteristic fifth drink—my second of two frozen margaritas, which came after a pineapple martini and two greyhounds. But being right is little consolation. Besides, it's not every day that I get to do one of my favorite activities with one of the most talented people I know. Last night found me doing live-piano karaoke with Nicole Atkins, an acclaimed singer-songwriter whose work I had admired for years before we became friends. The shindig at Sid Gold's Request Room was in celebration of Nicole's upcoming fourth album.
But on the morning after this epic night, my mind was fixated on her last album—specifically one track called "The Worst Hangover." I could definitely relate to it.
"The first things I'm putting in are B12 and B complex," Emily tells me right before squirting them into the IV fluid bag. B vitamins (which are depleted by alcohol) help protect your nervous system. Deficiencies caused by drinking can exacerbate depression and anxiety (hence the dark mood that often accompanies a hangover).
"We hand-tailor all our drips," says Emily. "We," as in NutriDrip, an IV nutrient therapy service that comes to your home or office—sort of like Glam Squad but with syringes. I'm getting the Hangover Club service, an on-demand infusion of hydration, electrolytes, and vitamins that's said to ease hangover symptoms and leave you feeling "refreshed and revitalized," according to the website, where you can make an appointment in New York City to have a nurse come to you in as little as 45 minutes. An increasing number of people are availing themselves of the $200 treatment, which will soon be offered in Washington, D.C., Boston, and other East Coast metro areas.
NutriDrip isn't the only company providing hangover cures through an IV. Last April, ThrIVe Drip Spa, a facility capable of intravenously treating up to a dozen hungover ne'er-do-wells at once, opened in Houston. Reviv, founded by four ER physicians, started offering elective IV hydration at a Miami medispa five years ago. The service turned out to be so popular that the company soon took up permanent residency at the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas (because of course). In addition to drip therapy, Reviv offers booster shots of glutathione, which is available in over-the-counter oral supplements—and in the IV drip I'm receiving.
"Obviously, the most effective way to avoid a hangover is to drink less alcohol and more water," says Frank Lipman, a board-certified physician and expert in integrative and functional medicine. "But if you do drink too much, glutathione may help because it detoxifies the liver." Interestingly, your body produces less and less of this important antioxidant as you age, which may explain why three to four glasses of wine can destroy a middle-aged woman while barely making a dent in the detoxification cycle of a hard-partying 25-year-old. Dr. Lipman, who sells his own line of glutathione supplements [see sidebar], believes a drip infused with the power nutrient makes sense medically. "IV glutathione goes directly into the bloodstream so it can offer quick relief. Taking it orally can be effective too, especially if taken before you drink."
In addition to B vitamins, glutathione, and much-needed fluids, my IV also contains vitamin C to support immune function. "It takes about three hours to experience the full effect," says Emily.
"Just in time for my Peloton class with Alyssa Milano," I say, immediately realizing that's one of the strangest sentences I've ever spoken.
NutriDrip co-founder and medical director Maurice Beer, who's board-certified in internal and holistic medicine, explains that for hangover-specific symptoms like nausea, headache, or other discomfort, the drip is often supplemented with medications, like the ibuprofen I'm given.
"Many conventional physicians don't buy into the need for IV nutrition because they have been taught that all you get is expensive urine," Dr. Beer says. "But studies confirm the value of IV nutrition, and it's now a significant part of functional medicine management."
At this point, a few colleagues walk past the conference room and do a double take, as if they've seen a hamster swimming in a fishbowl.
"We get that a lot," Emily tells me. "I've actually had clients ask if I could sit on the floor behind their desk and hide the IV pole."
About a half hour into what would be a 45-minute treatment, Emily tells me, "You're starting to look perkier. You've got a little bit more color."
I don't know if she's trying to convince me of the drip's efficacy—I'm not feeling much different at this point—but she's speaking my language. I had tried to camouflage last night's debauchery with foundation a few hours earlier, but it quickly became apparent that I couldn't. There's a big difference between skin that's plump with hydration and skin that's bloated with ... regret.
By the time Emily carefully removes the needle, my headache has improved, and I'm feeling less like a flaming bag of garbage and more like a smoldering trash can. Though I wouldn't call it a miracle, the treatment did take the edge off my hangover in a way only time, naps, and gallons of Gatorade otherwise would have.
Later that night, as I sweated through an entire Peloton class with Alyssa Milano without passing out, I thanked God for modern medicine. And then I promised myself I would never drink tequila again.
Afraid of Needles? Pop One Of These Pills Instead
BE WELL BY DR. FRANK LIPMAN S-ACETYL GLUTATHIONE
Antioxidant tripeptide glutathione is ubiquitous in IV formulas for hangovers, and this capsulversion promises optimum absorption. $56/60 pills; bewell.com
Touted as the first multivitamin for drinkers, this supplement with milk thistle, artichoke leaf, and B vitamins replenishes the nutrients that alcohol depletes from your body. $40/90 pills; drinkwel.com
OREGON'S WILD HARVEST MILK THISTLE
This daily herbal supplement contains milk thistle seed extract, which studies show helps support liver function. $27/90 pills; oregonswildharvest.com