A shot in the arm: The hotels supplying ‘recovery’ drips for your hangover

IV drip companies claim to have all the ingredients to clear your hangover (Getty Images/iStockphoto)
IV drip companies claim to have all the ingredients to clear your hangover (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

In The Independent’s travel trends column, Trendwatch, we dig into the types of trip, modes of transport and top buzzwords to watch out for.

We wake up in rumpled sheets. Champagne flutes are dotted around, hairspray and heels chucked near the Do not Disturb sign. Then: an unwelcome knock on the door. I stagger to it, draping a fluffy white robe around myself as I go. “I think you ordered one of these?” says a smiling woman in a black T-shirt.

No, not catering staff with our breakfast, but a nurse wielding a drip stand, two bags of lurid yellow-coloured liquid, and a case full of tubes and needles. Heads spinning from a tequila-slamming night on the town, my sister and I are about to experience the vitamin “recovery drip”.

Ever since these restorative intravenous body-boosters were popularised by celebrities such as Rihanna, Brad Pitt and Adele as a way to stay perky on tour or recharge after a depleting run of work projects, they’ve been a curiosity for health nuts and hedonistic nightlifers alike. Justin Bieber recently told documentary makers that he gets weekly IV infusions of energy-generating supplement NAD+ to help him with illness, exhaustion and recovery from former drug habits. Now, London’s hotels are beginning to offer IV experiences as part of hedonistic overnight packages.

We’re trying Get a Drip, a “drip to your door” service, at London’s South Place Hotel. Their smart team of nurses also service the capital’s recently opened The Standard. The Dorchester’s spa and celebby five-star The Ned have also trialled IV recovery treatments, while establishments overseas such as Ibiza’s legendary Pikes hotel and Thailand’s Anantara Siam Bangkok hotel have run partnerships with various vitamin-drip brands.

A qualified nurse talks us through the procedure, sets up our drip stands between us, and gets to swabbing our arms and tightening up a tourniquet. Having had minimal medical procedures in my lifetime (and drug use, need I add), it’s interesting to learn that I have “smaller veins” than my sister Abby’s; I’m given a smaller needle on my catheter, and my drip bag takes twice as long to drain. It all seems swift, professional and undramatic to me – though I can imagine it’d be far from a treat for the needle-nervous.

The nurse warns Abby and I that we might feel a cooling sensation or get chilly as the “MultiVit” mixture – a potent mix of B vitamins, vitamin C, potassium, calcium, sodium chloride and glucose – enters our body. And we do – but on a hot summer’s day with the head-fug of a hangover, it’s a strange, but by no means unpleasant, experience. The only awkward moment comes when the nurse has to pass us the TV remote so we can put on a rerun of Friends, which we laugh feebly at as the magic potion flows coolly into our veins. She then proceeds to watch Monica, Rachel and Phoebe discount wedding dress shopping, chortling along with us. The hour-long treatment is less formal, less awkward and more surreal than I’d pictured.

The theory is, the vitamins and minerals bypass your gut, where an oral vitamin would go, delivering a higher dose of nutrients, quicker. Our particular cocktail of vitamins is designed to do everything from help with “maintenance of normal vision” and neurotransmission to soothing our nervous systems. When our drips have drained, they are removed and an injection of detox substance glutathione injected into our catheters (a “master antioxidant” that naturally occurs in our liver, but depletes with age). It’s supposed to help our bodies “detox” after the boozing.

The trend is not without its controversies. Medical professionals have criticised this type of “drip therapy”, with the NHS’s national medical director, Professor Stephen Powis, issuing a statement in 2019 slamming them as ineffective at best, dangerous at worst. “Miracle hangover cures and quick fixes simply don’t exist, and anyone online who says they do is probably out to make a quick buck at your expense,” he said in the bulletin.

GQ’s resident doctor was similarly critical in a review of Reviv’s IV treatments, available in many US cities. “The feeling currently in clinical medicine is that IV Vitamins have little in the way of evidence base, are not seen as a drug or medicine therapy, and whilst appear very attractive to clients are much of a fad,” Dr Tamer Rezk told the publication. Get a Drip is keen to clarify that “our products are IV nutrients and not registered medicines”.

I’m ready to be heavily cynical, but actually, I feel great post-drip: clear-headed, hydrated, infinitely less like I need 20 chicken nuggets and an hour-long bubble bath. Abby agrees – and her opinion counts double, seeing as she’s back off on the town for round two tonight.

Though the medical consensus seems to be that an IV infusion can’t “fix” you when you’re feeling hungover or just plain run down, it’s certainly a novel experience for urban nightlife fans (who aren’t squeamish about needles). A breakfast of avocado toast and hash browns and a couple of pints of water no doubt contribute, but we leave the hotel at midday feeling almost as good as new.