When I found out I’d be the guinea pig for a story on The I.V. Doctor -- a New York Urologist who sends “dependable healthcare professionals” to your home, office, or hotel to administer I.V. treatment for hangovers -- my first thought was, “Is it safe?”. Just kidding, my first thought was, “Will I really drink enough tonight to justify a miracle cure?”
Anyway, the promise was that all this damage would be mitigated by the I.V. Doctor’s most magical bag: Revive, a $249 “deathbed” cocktail consisting of 2,000ml of Lactated Ringers (basically electrolyte-loaded water), Zofran for nausea, Pepcid for heartburn, Toradol for inflammation, and some bonus B12 ($75) for general awesomeness. Of course, you could take all of this orally, but drinking a gallon of liquid means a lower absorption rate, peeing out most of that gallon, and waiting hours to feel the effects -- versus 20 minutes or so with the I.V.
The I.V. Doctor’s house call model fills a new niche prized by his Wall Street-heavy clientele, but similarly missioned clinics have been popping up all over America. The first was most likely Vegas’ Hangover Heaven (which also operates a bus, and claims to have treated over 10,000 miserable vacationers in their hotel rooms), followed by Miami’s REVIV, Chicago’s Revive (now IVme), Atlanta’s Hydration Station, and more. Some use coded language (“Active lives full of long hours at work, excessive exercise, Summer days in the sun, and enjoying nightlife all leave you drained”), but others openly cater to the reasonably irresponsible:
“If you have a truly ‘Epic’ hangover, then this package was designed for you.”
Or, more idiosyncratically:
“Do you have sales calls with your boss today or have to coach a little league game this afternoon, and probably should have said ‘no’ to the last bottle of wine last night?”
In between body-draining shenanigans, I read every trend story I could find, mostly to survey opinions claiming this was a terrible idea. TIME’s Olivia B. Waxman’s was by far the most dissuasive; the kindest thing her heavy-hitting experts had to say was, “This is like using a bulldozer to do something that you can do with a shovel”.
Still, it wasn’t dissuasive enough, so I rang up an MD friend from college. If anyone was going to talk me out of this, it was going to be a physician I’d drank too much with before. He wasn’t alarmed though. “As doctors get financially squeezed, you’ll see more and more side businesses. It’s like your old classmate who’s giving cosmetic G-spot injections. Does it hurt anybody? Probably not. Is it necessary? Probably not.” (Note: I had no idea my old classmate was doing this, or that anybody else was either.)
As for the price, he said it wasn’t a bad deal -- for an ER visit, the doctor’s bill alone would be higher, plus, nobody goes to the ER for a hangover unless it’s in a police car or an ambulance. The treatment’s cheaper in other cities, but house calls always run steeper -- and regardless, this is New York: if the sauce costs more here than in Chicago, why wouldn’t the salvation?
On my big morning, the Doctor called to ask a few screening questions. Even over the phone, he had great bedside manner, highlighted by the remarkable ability to ask if you were a Molly abuser, without even remotely implying that you were a Molly abuser. He apologized that he wouldn’t be sending his most attractive RN -- another client had specifically requested her -- but her sub-in, Mike the Physician Assistant, had a laid-back competence perfectly suited for this ridiculous situation. After setting up the drip, he assessed my forearms for entry points, and noted that I had “small veins”. That was not news I would have liked to have received from a hot nurse.
The insertion was painless, maybe because Mike used a smaller needle due to my tiny, effeminate blood vessels. A smaller needle meant the bag would take longer to drain -- a full 20 minutes instead of 16 -- but the solution didn’t hurt flowing in, so no big deal. (Apparently cold solution can cause some discomfort, so if you think you’re VIP enough to keep Mike waiting on a freezing sidewalk, think twice, or apologize and ask him to warm the bag up on your radiator -- really, this works.)
The Doctor had told me that if someone requested hangover treatment more than twice a week, he’d most likely refer them to counseling. He’s practiced medicine for 30 years, and still maintains two urology clinics, so while this extra cash was no doubt welcome, there was no reason for him to enable trainwrecks. Mike, who frequents ICU and ER wards on his regular beat, added that he wouldn’t treat an obviously intoxicated client, or anyone who clearly lived in a “heroin dungeon”; this treatment was only for otherwise-healthy people who’d overdone it. I think Mike is the first person to tell me I looked otherwise-healthy since the early '90s.
Mike broke out virgin needles to deliver the Toradol, Pepcid, Zofran, and B12. Designing your treatment’s kind of like ordering a pizza: the Lactated Ringers are the crust/mozz/sauce, and the rest are toppings you add as desired/needed. Researchers like Tulane’s Dr. Jeffrey Wiese have preached the benefits of anti-inflammatories in combatting hangovers for years, so even though the Toradol’s the cocktail’s priciest drug, you definitely want that. My college buddy fingered the Pepcid as the least essential ingredient -- “unless you also ate 10 chili dogs the night before”.
Since this was for a story (and also complimentary), I’d gone all-in. And, it was working. As Mike rolled the top of the bag like a tube of toothpaste to squeeze down the reluctant last bulb of fluid, I wasn’t exactly soaring with the eagles, but considering I’d started the morning feeling like a fat pigeon that’d been flattened by a truck, just achieving a state of heightened alrightness was a victory. Hell, the fact that I was even awake was a victory.
I asked Mike if he’d I.V.’d himself. He grinned sheepishly and said about 12 times, then explained that PAs don’t have a union, and basically get no sick days (not an explanation that required a sheepish grin). In truth, half the people I’ve told about this seem to know someone who’s self-administered: a fireman buddy; a friend’s brother who’s a Delta Force Commando (“he’s a super-killer -- and he has to wake up early”); and of course, medical residents. Said a New York plastic surgeon I know, “We used to give them to each other in surgery internships if we had a cold or flu to make sure we could keep working; only p*****s got sick or had hangovers”.
I’m not a super-killer, or a lifesaver, or even a finance guy flying in from Atlantis late Sunday night who's due at work at 8am Monday, like these four dudes Mike treated last week. But I do have a responsibility to keep my friends’ bars from becoming organic smoothie shops. If that requires the occasional needle, I’m sure I can rationalize another prick.