Does This New Hangover Cure Actually Work? We Tried It to See

A company launched an I.V. system that says it can help cure hangovers. We sent a reporter in to get hooked up and tell his story.

9:57 A.M., The Morning After

It’s three minutes till ten on a grey October morning in a neighborhood in Brooklyn when June calls to tell me she’s outside. That’s good because I’m in bad shape.

When I open the front door my headache gets a second wind and I have a brief flashback to somewhere around midnight, somewhere, according to my notes, around my third tequila and fifth beer, laughing about how “funny” and “interesting” this morning will be. It seems less funny now.

When I first heard about the I.V. Doctor, I was instantly curious. The Cliff’s Notes version: The I.V. Doctor is an Uber-like service for hungover individuals where a quick email and $250 will send a nurse to your apartment, office or helipad (probably) to administer up to two liters of fluids and vitamins directly into your booze-ravaged circulatory system. My first impression was a mixture of revulsion and fascination. It seemed like yet another novelty luxury for “work hard, play harder” Type-A people. On the other hand: a hangover cure!

Though roughly half of the company’s business comes from people who overindulged, the site emphasizes that its services aren’t just for the hungover; they also provide help to jet-lagged businessmen, athletes and, seasonally, those looking for a Vitamin C boost or flu vaccination.

In the name of journalism, I decided to go for the dehydration trifecta: I would arrive jet-lagged from a cross-country flight, throw on running shoes and knock out a few miles and then go get completely hammered. This is what I was laughing about at midnight. This is why I woke up on my friend’s couch next to a scrawled note logging 14 alternating tequilas, beers and whiskeys. This is why I was in bad shape.

10:01 A.M., The Morning After

June is wearing scrubs and carrying a large travel bag. She’s been an E.R. nurse for over a decade and, for just over half a year, a member of the I.V. Doc team. She’s intelligent, outgoing and I’m not at all surprised when I find out she is often the on-call nurse for media coverage. She has that elegant, easy authority that people seem to get only after years in life-and-death fields like emergency medicine. When I ask her if she can put coffee in the I.V., she says no, but in a way that feels like it is what I wanted to hear all along. She breaks open her kit, takes my vitals and sets up the bags on a telescoping stand.

Over the next fortyish minutes, the I.V. drips out two liters of Lactated Ringer solution (essentially electrolyte fluid), plus some Zofran (for nausea), Pepsid (for heartburn) and Toradol (for inflammation and headache). It’s a strange experience, being hooked up to an I.V. by someone in scrubs but not in a medical facility. You look up expecting to see bright florescent lights and gurneys racing across antiseptic floors, but instead you’re on a tan sofa in a living room and the nurse on call doesn’t have any other patients. It feels like dream logic. I start to see the appeal.

The I.V. Doctor was the invention of Adam Nadelson, who first conceived of the idea in medical school. Since serving its first patient in January of this year, the company has already expanded from New York City to the Hamptons, Chicago and Los Angeles, and are looking to begin operations in San Francisco soon. The I.V. Doctor is not the first business to conceive of combatting a hangover with an I.V. (there are several predecessors around the country), but its emphasis on the luxury at-your-doorstep aspect has them poised for expansion.

10:48 A.M., The Morning After

Does it work?

The short answer is “yes.” The real answer is also “yes.” Let me explain.

According to its site, “It’s well known in the medical community that oral intake of fluids and vitamins have an absorption rate of at best 50%–60%, where as I.V. hydration is 100% absorbed.” Some back-of-the-napkin math shows that I would have had to drink nearly eight pints of water in 40 minutes to get the same amount of absorbed hydration.

So does it work? By the time June was packing up, my pulse had corrected, my light sensitivity diminished and I could put coherent sentences together. By 11 a.m., June was long gone and I felt good enough to board a J train for a full day of walking around Manhattan—and another night out.

The I.V., like all hangover cures, works more like erosion than the hard on/off of a light switch. It’s a slow, dawn-like process, which makes it hard to objectively talk about success. If I had just gotten a Gatorade, an egg muffin and a banana, how would I feel? Most likely, I would have still gotten on the J train, but it probably would have taken me another hour to pull myself together and I would have felt a little worse doing it.

What then does that mean for hangover-cure seekers? It means that the I.V Doc is right—this is a luxury service, designed for people with expendable income. Still, having a semi-instant cure for a hangover is its own kind of luxury.