Can you cure a hangover with an IV drip?
Vitamin IV drip treatments have been growing in popularity, with pictures of hungover partiers hooked up to IV bags all over social media. What was once a treatment limited to the doctor’s office, it can now be found being administered in spas, buses, and even delivered to your Las Vegas hotel.
But how effective are these treatments when it comes to curing hangovers? We consulted Dr. Bethany Sanstrum, who holds a Ph.D. in Cellular and Molecular Biology to get some answers:
"Dehydration is a major cause of the onset of hangovers after drinking alcoholic beverages. Intravenous (IV) lounges are a new trend where customers are given an IV treatment containing saline and various vitamins for hangover recovery . These fluids are injected straight into the bloodstream, so it is an effective treatment for dehydration and provides benefits for those who suffer from vomiting and cannot keep water down. Anti-nausea medications are commonly added to the IV drips to reduce these symptoms . However, IV drip treatments can take many hours to complete, which is about the same amount of time to fully hydrate by drinking water. Having a glass of water before, after, and between alcoholic drinks can help prevent the negative effects of dehydration associated with hangovers .
Hangovers are not only caused by dehydration, so IV drips only solve a part of the problem. Alcohol is broken down by the liver, which releases toxins that cause damage to the cells of the body, specifically acetaldehyde, which is a product of alcohol metabolism [1, 3]. These toxins are not flushed out of the system faster by IV drips because the kidneys excrete the toxins rapidly, even without added IV fluids .
Many IV therapies include glutathione, an antioxidant that aids in liver metabolism . However, IV supplementation of glutathione does not seem to be efficient . Vitamins administered via an IV drip bypass the digestive system, which can be a problem since almost all vitamins are absorbed via the GI tract. Liposomal oral glutathione supplements, on the other hand, provide a delivery system to the GI tract where the glutathione can be absorbed by the liver .
Getting an IV drip after being hungover likely does not speed up recovery faster than simple hydration. However, supplementation prior to drinking may be beneficial for increasing glutathione levels and preventing hangover symptoms. Many natural products and vitamins have been tested and manufactured to combat the negative symptoms of hangovers . Prickly pear juice was shown to significantly increase memory, reduce sensitivity to light and sound, and reduce blood alcohol levels after heavy drinking [5, 6]. Additionally, the herbal ingredient ginger root is believed to provide antioxidant effects during alcohol use .
Another issue associated with IV lounges is that they typically are not medically regulated, which has many physicians concerned. Elderly and immunocompromised individuals are at higher risk for injection site infections from IV drips and are, therefore putting themselves at an unnecessary risk . The saline in IV drips also has a very high salt content, which can be dangerous for people with heart disease or high blood pressure . Furthermore, IVs that are inserted incorrectly can create air in the bloodstream, which could lead to a stroke .
Ultimately, prevention of hangovers via oral supplementation and hydration before and after drinking is likely the safest and most effective option for hangover symptoms.
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1. Thompson, D. (2018, January 31). 'IV Lounges' Are Suddenly Hip, But Are They Safe? Retrieved June 24, 2020, from https://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/news/20180131/iv-lounges-are-suddenly-hip-but-are-they-safe
2. Arnarson, A. (n.d.). 7 Evidence-Based Ways to Prevent Hangovers. Retrieved June 24, 2020, from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/7-ways-to-prevent-a-hangover
3. Palmer E, Tyacke R, Sastre M, Lingford-Hughes A, Nutt D, Ward R. Alcohol hangover: Underlying biochemical and neurochemical mechanisms. Alcohol. 2019. 54, 3.
4. Abundance And Health. (2020, April 16). Glutathione - the hangover remedy we've all been waiting for! Retrieved June 24, 2020, from https://www.abundanceandhealth.co.uk/en/blog/post/79-glutathione-the-hangover-remedy-weve-all-been-waiting-for
5. Wang F, Li Y, Zhang Y-J, Zhou Y, Li S, Li H-B. Natural products for the prevention and treatment of hangover and alcohol use disorder. Molecules. 2016; 21, 64.
6. Lee HS, Isse T, Kawamoto T, Baik HW, Park JY, Yang M. Effect of Korean pear (Pyruspyrifolia cv. Shingo) juice on hangover severity following alcohol consumption. Food Chem. Toxicol. 2013; 58, 101–106.
These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.