BACK TO LIFE

07.20.14

The I.V. Doc Comes to Your House, Fights Hangovers, and Wins

A new service promises to bring you back from even the worst hangovers, all in the comfort of your own home. The price? $219 and up. Is it worth it?

Hangovers are a unique type of hell. Headache, anxiety, body aches, fatigue—all exacerbated by the nauseating notion that the only way out is the same way you got in: liquids. (In this case, water).

In a society obsessed with comfort, it’s only reasonable for someone to come up with a solution to this self-inflicted problem. Since hangovers stem from lack of hydration, water is the secret weapon. But imbibing one fluid after over-imbibing many isn’t always in the cards, especially when the thought of consuming anything at all makes you gag.

So how do you solve a problem like a hangover? If you’ve got $300 and aren’t afraid of needles, the answer may be in the form of a “discrete luxury service of intravenous hydration therapy” quaintly known as The I.V. Doc.

Six months after opening in NYC, the first commercialized home I.V. service—delivered and administered by a medical professional—is thriving. Now available in the Hamptons and Long Island, The I.V. Doc will hit the West Coast come August. In the meantime, I found two New Yorkers suffering from horrific hangovers. They agreed to participate. I agreed to observe. (Disclaimer: they are my friends).

***

“Maggie & Lydia, hang in there... the IV Doc is on the way!” reads an encouraging text just minutes after I place two orders for Revive. At $299, it’s the company’s most intense I.V. service—one that’s earned the classification “deathbed treatment.” Intense as the name sounds, ordering it online is as easy as buying clogs. Underneath minimalistic names like Detox and Cleanse, enticing descriptions of the fluid medicine bags help narrow the choices. “A few too many cocktails? Headache or nausea from flu or just feeling down?” reads the description beneath Detox ($219). “Need to be up and ready for that conference call? Make it to work now!” it says below Refresh ($229). My friends, hurting from a night of rum-infused revelry, opt for Revive. On top of two bags of fluid, the cream of the crop comes with anti-nausea (Zofran), anti-inflammatory (ibuprofen), and anti-heartburn medicine (Pepcid).

Unbeknownst to me and my cohorts, my online order has just been sent to the 60 registered nurses across all five boroughs of New York City who work for I.V. Doc. Most do it on the side to make money. All are used to seeing people at their worst.

Not long after the reinforcing text, my phone rings. Gretel, another employee at I.V. Doc, wants to speak to the two getting treatment. “Why do you want to do this? Are you on any medications? What are your symptoms?” The prep, standard before any medical procedure, rings oddly of therapy. “I feel like complete shit, nauseous, tension headache. I would definitely throw up later,” says Maggie. “I’m jittery, anxious, exhausted. My body hurts,” says Lydia.

Within an hour, as promised, the doc arrives. (Or, in this case, nurse.) Dressed in an all-black scrubs, a perspiring blonde named Allison rushes in carrying a black canvas bag with “I.V. Doc” embroidered in white. While unpacking, Allison reinforces that the hydration therapy isn’t just for hangovers. About 50 percent of clients use the I.V. Doc for other things—stomach bugs and jet lag, for example.

But it was hard not to stare at the small beads of liquid dripping into their I.V.s and wonder: what happened to just drinking water?

The image of this as a “luxury” service fades a bit when the needles appear. Maggie’s face, already pale, goes gray. “What if I faint?” she asks. Allison, who spends her days administering IV’s to cancer patients at NYU, says no one has ever fainted under her watch. After taking Maggie’s vitals, the needle goes in. Attaching it to a bag of clear liquid, she hangs it on an infusion pole that she’s put between the two. One down, one to go. Lydia also gets her vitals checked, arm rubbed with alcohol, and glove-covered hands safely inserting the needle.

Watching a stranger administer I.V.’s to two desperately hungover people in your living room is even more bizarre than it sounds. Smooth R&B in the background helped, as did Allison’s calm and confident demeanor. But it was hard not to stare at the small beads of liquid dripping into their I.V.s and wonder: what happened to just drinking water?

Pillows underneath their left arms, Maggie and Lydia look at each other and laugh at the ridiculousness of this scenario. The anti-nausea medicine, added to the I.V. a little bit later, has clearly worked. Maggie’s need to vomit has disappeared. Lydia’s jitters have calmed and her pain subsided. Nurse Allison blushes a bit as we commend her work—and says we’ve been a better crowd than most, one of whom drank beers while getting the I.V.

She’s used to getting a good response. An endless loop of testimonials lines the bottoms of the I.V. Doc’s website. “You guys saved me today! I had food poisoning, and was up all night. I ordered Revive and now I am about to close my second deal today! Thank you, thank you, thank you!” Robert, from Manhattan, writes. “At my office by 9, trading by 930...Saviors!” croons John from Brooklyn.

It’s exactly this outcome that Adam Nadelson, a medical resident who founded the company with his urologist father, hopes to provide. After watching his friends in finance suffer through “sluggish” days, he set out to create a “safe, convenient, and discreet” way to get rid of a hangover, fast. While there are locations where people can go to get the procedure, Nadelson says his is the first in NYC to deliver.

And while the concept of being stuck by a stranger in your own home sounds a bit alarming, Nadelson says that the medical professionals he employs have not run into problems. “As physicians we create a safe treatment plan for all of our patients. We have not had any complications,” he tells me. “I.V. hydration is a safe therapy used in hospitals to treat dehydration—why wait four hours in a hospital or doctor's waiting room when we can help you in less than 30 minutes?”

Despite taking on regular clients, Nadelson says his company in no way promotes addiction. “The service is not designed to enable substance dependence and is not a cure for any kind of underlying substance abuse problem,” he says. The symptoms associated with a hangover, such as headache, nausea, heartburn, etc., all ultimately stem from a lack of proper hydration, which of course, can easily happen after a night of drinking. It’s not a miracle cure, but the solutions we use are designed specifically to rehydrate the body to make the client feel rejuvenated and ready to take on the day.”

Following the treatment, Maggie and Lydia were, admittedly, in much better shape to “take on the day” than even an hour before. Perhaps it’s not a miracle cure—but it’s definitely a faster one. But for $299? That’s a whole lot of Gatorade.