December 17, 2015
3 min read

"Post-Party Recovery" Just Might be the Newest Medical Specialty

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It’s a fact of modern life that many people want to do whatever they want to do. . . and then have doctors reverse the consequences. Spend a lifetime sunbathing, then have a dermatologist zap away the damage. Eat whatever they want, then have the fat sucked out of their thighs.

One overindulgence that has always resisted a fast fix is too much alcohol. While hangover remedies are legion, none seem to really make the pain go away. Some people swear by strange concoctions of raw eggs and Worcestershire sauce. Others simply try to drink lots of water and take aspirin or Tylenol before sleep. And still others chug Gatorade or Pedialyte to replace lost electrolytes. But even after these efforts, people usually have to deal with a pounding headache and achy body the morning after a night of too much partying.

Until now.

“If you can’t stop ‘em, fix ‘em” seems to be the attitude of medical services cropping up all over the country to help hard-drinking partygoers recover from their binges. The treatment: IV hydration. Hangover Heaven in Las Vegas claims to be the first medical clinic dedicated to curing hangovers; it opened in April of 2012, founded by anesthesiologist Dr. Jason Burke, who calls himself the world’s first hangover specialist. Patients/clients can opt to visit the clinic, have a staffer come to their home or hotel room, or hop a ride on the hangover treatment bus. Since opening, Hangover Heaven has treated over 20,000 hangovers.

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Since then doctors across the country have been opening specialty “hydration therapy centers” or “rehydration clinics." While physicians open the businesses, most of the treatments are provided by nurses, paramedics, or physicians’ assistants. There’s HungoverMD in Greenwich, Connecticut; The Hangover Club in New York City; IV Me in Chicago; Hangover Help Now in Dallas; The Remedy Room in New Orleans; Hydrate Medical in Charlotte, North Carolina. Many urgent care centers are starting to offer IV rehydration for hangovers, too.

The hangover clinics offer their own “cocktails” of IV fluids which may include vitamins (often B complex), antioxidants, electrolytes, Zofran, Pepcid, or Toradol. (Hangover Heaven’s options are dubbed Redemption, Salvation, and Rapture!) Patients tend to be young, usually in their 20s to 40s, and eager to feel better so they don’t miss work or other activities. The clinics claim that the IVs begin to ease the symptoms of alcohol-induced dehydration in as little as 15 minutes, although the treatments usually take 30-60 minutes (and cost from one to several hundred dollars, not covered by insurance).

In some cities, as in Las Vegas, people suffering from hangovers don’t even have to get themselves to a clinic for treatment. A clinic staffer will make a house call and set up the IV.  The IV Doc, a completely mobile service, now offers treatments in New York City, Long Island, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Park City.

Many of the clinics also offer IV hydration for people suffering from jet lag, colds and flu, athletic overexertion, and even food poisoning. REVIV Wellness, for instance, offers infusions and injections (vitamin shots) in spa-like facilities around the world.  

And yes, there are many, many critics of the clinics. Doctors in cities where the clinics have opened have gone on record against the trend, concerned that IV therapy carries too many risks, such as inflammation or infection, to be used when people are perfectly capable of orally hydrating themselves. If they’re too sick to drink water on their own, say the critics, then they should head to the emergency room. There’s concern that the single-treatment clinics may ignore underlying problems, or or that some individuals may repeatedly use the clinics to mask a drinking problem. Hangover clinic doctors counter that they take careful medical histories, refuse treatment to people who don’t meet their requirements or are actively inebriated, and send some people straight to the ER.

In spite of the concerns, hangover clinics continue to open, and business seems good. In fact, the busiest day of the year, New Year’s Day, is right around the corner.