IV Therapy: a new trend in wellness and healthcare
Updated: Apr 25
Brice O'Brien still remembers the first time he tried IV therapy two years ago to get rid of fatigue and harsh hangovers.
He had been skeptical before, but the effects were so positive, he was an instant fan.
“I felt more energized,” O’Brien said.
O’Brien became such a fan that he is now the CEO of The Drip Lounge, which has a location in downtown Charleston and soon Mount Pleasant.
So, what is IV therapy?
Intravenous therapy, commonly known as IV therapy, has become a popular trend among the college student battling a nasty hangover as well as the health-conscious seeking a quick wellness fix.
Intravenous therapy refers to a method of delivering fluid into veins with an injection from a syringe or via infusion, often referred to as a drip.
IV therapy is a medical treatment that delivers fluids, medications, and vitamins directly into the bloodstream through a vein. It has been used for decades to treat a wide range of health conditions, from dehydration to cancer.
IV therapy delivers nutrients directly into the bloodstream, bypassing the digestive system, which can often compromise the absorption and effectiveness of vitamins and minerals. This allows the body to absorb higher doses of nutrients, leading to faster and more noticeable results.
If you're a fan of medical dramas like Grey's Anatomy, House or ER, then you're probably familiar with IV therapy. Celebrities like Hailey Baldwin and Gwyneth Paltrow are strong advocates for this new trend in self care.
During a recent podcast, Paltrow expressed her fondness for intravenous infusion, stating "I love an IV!" and referring to herself as an "early adopter" of the practice.
But recently, IV therapy has taken on a new form, with IV bars and lounges popping up in strip malls claiming to be able to cure or prevent hangovers, among other things. You may have heard of hydration or vitamin therapy from a celebrity you follow on social media, and now you're curious to try it out for yourself.
These IV therapy lounges offer a variety of vitamin and nutrient cocktails, each claiming to provide a different benefit, from weight loss to pain relief to detoxing your body. There's even an IV drip to boost your libido.
But with price tags that can go up to thousands of dollars, it's only natural to wonder if these boutique IV drips are worth the investment.
Why IV therapy?
The goal of this kind of treatment is for the body to receive replenishment, rejuvenation, and detoxification faster than by simply drinking water, following a healthy diet, or taking oral medications.
“More energy, less fatigue throughout the day, and I have found that it is easier to do daily day-to-day tasks without feeling lethargic,” O’Brien said.
The trendy therapy has registered nurses who administer the IV consisting of a liter of fluids (saline) mixed with essential vitamins, amino acids, and energy boosters.
But why not just drink eight glasses of water and avoid the needle?
“Necessary fluids and nutrients can go directly into a person’s bloodstream; giving a much more immediate and effective result,” said board-certified physician Nicole Nadel.
The former emergency medicine specialist at East Cooper Medical Center recently opened a medispa in Charleston.
“A more dehydrated or unhealthy person can technically benefit more from receiving the nutrients / fluids that their body is lacking at that time.” Dr. Nadel added. “Our intention is not to replace your doctor, and we will always refer you to one if the treatment required is outside the limits of our practice." Most clinics have a disclaimer that states that some of their services have not been evaluated or approved by the FDA on their websites.
Augustus Cortezi is a retired track athlete who recently ran the Cooper River Bridge Run 5K
“I'm always looking for ways to optimize my performance and recovery time,” he said.
Cortezi has tried various forms of alternative and complementary medicine over the years, such as acupuncture, massage therapy, and cryotherapy.
“While these treatments can be helpful, I've found that IV therapy has been the most effective in terms of improving my recovery time and overall performance,” Cortezi said.
What makes IV therapy better than alternatives?
A study by the National Library of Medicine found that the significance of intravenous therapy is three main things - speed, efficiency, and convenience.
Since IV therapy bypasses the gastric system, the body can absorb more fluids without them having to pass through the digestive system. This makes it easier to provide medication to the target organs quickly.
IV therapy offers a number of benefits over other wellness treatments. For example, oral supplements may not be as effective, as they must go through the digestive system before being absorbed into the bloodstream.
Additionally, IV therapy allows for higher doses of nutrients to be delivered directly into the bloodstream, which can lead to faster and more noticeable results.
It’s also a convenient option for those with busy lifestyles, as treatments can often be completed in as little as 30 minutes.
One of the most common treatments of a hangover is an IV.
“I have seen patients undergoing severe alcohol withdrawal greatly benefit from IV fluids,” Dr. Nadel said, noting the post-hangover recovery.
While Nadel noted that the alcohol withdrawal that she has seen is normally just hangovers from one night of heavy drinking, addicted people withdrawing from alcohol may require IV therapy to address nutritional deficiencies and other health issues.
The IV solution for alcoholics going through withdrawals may include multivitamins, Vitamin B9, glucose, and minerals such as magnesium, phosphate, and potassium. Additionally, an IV containing glucose and Vitamin B1 may be given to prevent a serious alcohol withdrawal complication called Wernicke encephalopathy.
IV therapy for a regular hangover typically involves a saline solution with added electrolytes and vitamins, such as vitamin B12, that may help alleviate dehydration and replenish nutrients that were lost due to alcohol consumption.
And O’Brien confirmed that the Drip Lounge’s biggest demographic is people hungover from a bachelor party.
The cost of IV therapy varies depending on the type of treatment and location.
A common question is whether IV therapy is worth the price tag.
While IV therapy can be expensive, users insist the potential benefits far outweigh the alternative.
“Unless recommended by your physician, daily requirements of vitamins can be easily obtained through a well-balanced diet that includes multiple servings of vegetables and fruits,” Darragh O’Carroll, MD told Medical News Today.
For those looking to improve their overall health and wellness, IV therapy can provide a quick and effective way to deliver nutrients directly into the bloodstream.
Think twice before you drip
Despite the compelling advertising language often used, there is little scientific evidence to support that it offers substantial advantages.
According to Dr. Nadel, it is important to weigh the potential benefits and risks of IV therapy, as well as the cost, when deciding if it is the right treatment option.
“It depends on the reasoning behind the IV- sometimes it is medically necessary, sometimes it’s elective,” said Nadel. “Depending on the individual’s budget, I find IV therapy to be an incredible investment into yourself and your health. If an individual does not have the money to spend on an elective IV, I would absolutely encourage the alternative of simply drinking water and taking oral nutrients.”
A healthcare provider can help patients understand the specific considerations for their individual situation.
Overall, while IV therapy may not be for everyone, it offers a convenient and effective way to improve overall health and wellness.
As with any medical treatment, it is important to consult with a healthcare professional before beginning IV therapy to ensure it is safe and appropriate for your individual needs.
So, is it safe?
Associate professor of clinical medicine and medical director of Houston Methodist Primary Care Group Same Day Clinics, Dr. Septimus says receiving an IV in a hospital is typically necessary and administered in a safe and standardized manner by professionals in a medical-grade facility.
IV drips are the new must-have accessory, but before you race to your local drip bar, there are some serious risks to consider.
Sure, minor side effects like pain and swelling at the injection site may not seem like a big deal, but improperly administered drips can lead to serious problems like inflammation, clotting, bloodstream infections, and electrolyte imbalances.
And let's not forget about what's actually in that IV bag - it could be a cocktail of vitamins and minerals, or it could be something your body really doesn't need.
People with certain health conditions, like kidney or heart disease, should avoid IV fluids unless prescribed by a doctor.
If you're taking medication, there's a risk of serious drug interactions.
So, before you fork over your hard-earned cash for a boutique IV drip, ask yourself: is it really worth the risk? After all, staying hydrated and eating a healthy diet are simple and safe alternatives. So why not stick with the classics and save your veins for emergencies?