IV Therapy: A Revolutionary Antidote to Vacation Hangovers?

IV therapy is gaining popularity as a way of curing hangovers and other vacation woes.
IV therapy is gaining popularity as a way of curing hangovers and other vacation woes.

The future of tourism and wellness fusion has arrived— in the form of elective IV infusions targeted at overindulged and under-hydrated travelers

By Sarah Arksey
Associate Writer

storylines cruise ship
Today, elective IV services can be found in numerous environments— even cruise ships!

This service was pioneered in Sin City itself.

The first known elective IV clinic, Las Vegas’s Hangover Heaven, got its start over a decade ago— in the form of a bus that cruised the Las Vegas strip, offering a comfortable refuge for strung-out partiers to recharge. 

Feel Like Hell? Hangover Heaven! Beckoned the emblazoned windows of the 45-foot “rolling treatment clinic”. The bus had— ironically— formerly been used to transport the members of a gospel choir.

Today, the bus has been put into a state of semi-retirement by the COVID—19 pandemic, and the company has transitioned to more of a “house call” model— providing 45-minute treatments in hotel rooms around the city.

The rapid spread of IV therapy

After Hangover Heaven’s success, similar companies began to appear rapidly across— and beyond— the United States.

Another elective IV therapy company, Denver-based Hydramed, doesn’t immediately brand themselves as a hangover remedy— their website lists their primary treatment interests as “weight management, hormone optimization, skincare, hair loss, sexual health, and daily performance.”

However, their services are certainly in demand among tourists and partygoers. “The types of events we go to are usually weddings or bachelor(ette) parties,” said Frank, a member of Hydramed’s dispatch team. He added that the company sees a spike in group bookings during music festivals or holidays. In just four years since its inception, the popularity of Hydramed’s services has swept the U.S., and the company now serves over 100,000 regular customers across six states.

Al, a nurse practitioner and the former district manager of Oklahoma-based company Nutrition IV, says that his company saw patients looking to treat an assortment of issues, including hangovers, general dehydration, muscle cramps, and lack of energy. The launch of Nutrition IV was inspired by the success seen in Vegas’s IV clinics, and the company indeed saw success as well— often treating “high profile clients” from “large music venues and casinos” within the state.

Carnival Cruise Line offers onboard IV services, a perfect remedy for those partaking in the cruise line’s many hedonistic drink packages. The services— ranging in price from $119 to $299 per treatment— offer cruisegoers the opportunity to “Feel relief from nausea, a night of excess, or dehydration and recharge your body by delivering electrolytes and powerful B12 and C vitamins”.

Beyond the “Hydrate” option, which treats hangovers and other variations of sea-born dehydration, the cruise line offers “Glow”— which aims to “restore youthful radiance and transform your complexion from the inside out”, and “Slim”— which alleges the capability to “increase your metabolism, uplift your mood, and jumpstart your weight loss”.

“In my opinion, IV therapy is becoming more popular, [even] over-saturated in some areas,” says Al— a trend he attributes partially to social media. Al also says that IV services “turn a great profit”— which is very believable, given their generally high price tag!

Medical treatment, spa treatment, or both?

Baden Baden Wellness Spa
Elective IV services stand at the crossroads of the growing “Medispa” industry.

So— are elective IV services more aligned with the medical field, or the spa industry?

Al said that Nutrition IV’s atmosphere was “similar to a spa”— the clinic provided snacks and water, “comfort items” such as earplugs and warm blankets, and comfortable seating areas.

However, the services were provided strictly by medical professionals: EMTs, paramedics— many of whom also worked for the local fire department— as well as nurses and medical assistants.

The answer likely lies somewhere in the middle. The medical spa, or “Medispa”, the industry is booming— especially in highly touristed regions like Central America, where travelers are promised cheaper prices compared to the United States or Canada. Services commonly offered at Medispas include laser treatments, ‘fat—freezing’ treatments like Coolsculpting, and ‘injectables’ like Botox.

Treatment effectiveness

It may seem like technology has, at long last, found a cure for hangovers (and other common ailments of the human condition)— for those willing to pay a small fortune. The million-dollar question remains— do these treatments work, and if so, to what level of effectiveness?

“Most individuals report an increase in their immediate mood and feeling after their visit”, says Al, who holds a Doctorate in nursing. “I find it a great adjunct therapy for many mainline treatments and consider it a helpful supplement— not a treatment.”

medical tourism
With medical tourism on the rise, vacationers are seeking out services like IV therapy more than ever before.treatment.”

It’s true that some people aren’t good candidates for IV therapy, and effects may vary from patient to patient.

“Each person fills out a health screening of allergies and medical information before services,” says Al.

What bars an IV-curious potential patient from partaking? “If their vitals are unstable, blood pressure [is] too high, [or they have] congestive heart failure or other medical conditions on our ‘do not admit’ list.”

When asked what advice he’d give to curious, but nervous would-be clients, Al says that a thorough evaluation of each client’s reason for seeking treatment is integral. “I would interview them and ask what they hope to gain and why they came in the first place,” he says, “Then figure out a plan— what services could help and why”.

Medical professionals have warned that while they may be a tempting quick fix, IV therapy cannot address the full spectrum of hangover symptoms. “Choosing vitamins from a menu may make it feel like you’re giving your insides a spa day of sorts, which may add to the novelty of the experience,” states Hackensack Meridian Health, consulting with M.D. Cristina Ignacio.

These treatments target dehydration and electrolyte depletion, which account for only a fraction of the adverse effects of overindulgence— and they haven’t been proven to expedite the process of alcohol breakdown in the liver, the body’s true hangover cure.

Empirical evidence aside, users have raved about these services: “I use them every trip”, said one Reddit user, speaking about hangover—specific treatments from Reset IV in Las Vegas. Musing about their IV’s ingredients, the user continued: “Saline, vitamins, glutathione and anti-nausea… You wake up the next day like you haven’t drank at all”.

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Sarah Arksey

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