Some go for Alka-Seltzer. Others, Pedialyte. Anthony Bourdain had a recipe: aspirin, a cold Coca-Cola, Sichuan food and a joint.
But in recent years, some hungover people with cash to spare have been paying for an intravenous drip at a location of their choosing. Most IV drips are packed with a combination of saline, vitamins, headache relief and anti-nausea medications.
It’s a cocktail after cocktails. A flush, for the flush.
“I can’t be down a day. I can’t miss a day of work and just stay home and do nothing and feel bad for myself,” said Gabriel Boxer, 42, who said he learned about the hangover drips from an episode of “Billions.”
By day, Mr. Boxer works for a financial technology company. But by night he’s the “Kosher Guru,” a Jewish lifestyle influencer. After a big event, he’ll make an appointment for a nurse to come to his workplace. He catches up on emails with a needle in his arm.
“I can’t say I walk around the office saying that I have a hangover,” Mr. Boxer said, in between laughs. “I frame it as my self-care.”
The IV drips started drawing attention about 10 years ago and seemed to signal a new phase of partying, as binge drinking crashed into the wellness industry.
In the past few years, the hangover-cures industry has boomed, despite the skepticism of many researchers who say there is little or no evidence behind the grand claims.
Some concierge IV companies have expanded from hangovers to wellness. Clean Market, a medical spa whose NutriDrip came on the market through its Hangover Club about a decade ago, now offers cryotherapy, lymphatic drainage and infrared sauna therapy.
“When we started, it was probably 75 percent hangover driven,” said Asa Kitfield, a founder of Clean Market. The company’s Las Vegas location is still hangover focused, he said, but in New York, he said, 80 percent of its IV drips are about wellness.
Some regular users compared the drips to a post-marathon massage. Companies and influencers pitch them as virtuous aftercare. The marketing builds off a national obsession with staying hydrated and detoxing, and also nods to an online “biohack” conversation, a body-as-machine approach to physical enhancement.
“It’s like the bottle service of the recovery world,” said Danielle Remington, the director of events and partnerships for Drip Hydration, a concierge IV company. “It’s almost like having a private chef.”
Many of the basic drips start at about $150 to $300. Most companies offer the option to include additional vitamins and minerals, each for a cost. With add-ons, a drip can cost more than $1,000. Few, if any, drips are covered by health insurance.
The expense may be part of the appeal. Influencers post about their IV bags just hours after they show off V.I.P. passes. Status symbols compound in the conspicuous consumption of fun.
“Getting an IV at home after a hangover is like a flex,” said Dr. Abe Malkin, the chief executive and founder of Drip Hydration. “It’s like, ‘Look at me. I’m pretty bougie. I don’t need to sit and suffer.’”
Many users see the drips as an add-on to a weekend splurge, especially in party destinations, like Las Vegas, or at big music festivals, like Coachella. In Miami, Lupo Yachts, a charter luxury tour company, offers a suggestion for an IV drip company to groups. About one in 20 go for it, said Michael Lupolover, the owner and founder.
Some bachelorette parties hire teams of nurses to go from one elbow to another. One hungover bride even got a drip while she sat for hair and makeup. (Her groom sent the nurse over to her after his drip had been set up.)
“They were like, ‘I’m struggling. I’m getting married in three hours,’” said Rob McAdams, 32, a nurse at NutriDrip who treated the couple. “I was like, ‘OK. Let’s do this. Let’s fix you.’”
Hospitals use IV drips regularly to hydrate patients, said Dr. Ali Raja, the deputy chair of emergency medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital. “There really aren’t risks,” he said.
But there may not be many benefits, either. Dr. Raja said that there was only limited scientific research into the treatments. Most people recover from a hangover with time and water, he said, so users are paying for an expedited recovery.
“It’s like taking an Uber Black versus a shared Uber,” Dr. Raja said. “It’ll get you to the same place, but maybe a lot more quickly.”
This sort of personalized care has stretched into many medical specialties, including orthodontics and general practice. After testing themselves for Covid at home, people are injecting themselves with weight loss drugs or getting Adderall prescribed via telehealth. The services are often tailored, expensive and largely outside of the traditional medical establishment.
“It is coinciding with this idea of a deeper understanding of our personal biology,” said Emily Moquin, a food and beverage analyst at Morning Consult, a research firm.
Justin Jamieson, a 52-year-old journalist, traveled from Australia to Las Vegas to report on the IV drips.
Mr. Jamieson and his wife started drinking cocktails around midday. Then, they switched to beer and whiskey. At 5 p.m., they got foot massages — and fell asleep. (“By that time,” he said, “we were pretty trolleyed.”)
When they woke up, they had martinis, then split a bottle of wine for dinner. But it wasn’t enough.
“There was no point flying for 16, 17 hours to get to Las Vegas to test somebody out and just have a few beers,” he said. “I needed to really destroy myself.”
So at their hotel, Mr. Jamieson said, he explained his plan to the bartender. He drank several beers, along with four shots of “that cinnamon whiskey.” (He meant Fireball.)
The next day, he said, “I felt like a truck had driven over my head.” But after an IV drip, he felt good enough to sky-dive off a skyscraper that afternoon.