IV Therapy for Hangover Recovery: Bogus or Bona Fide?

We set out to discover whether trendy IV therapy is the cure for what ails us—or just fancy Gatorade.

Illustration by Jeannie Phan

The morning after a wild night at a Bruins game, I find myself languishing in Southie with a headache that would sideline a linebacker and a need for rest you can see plastered all over my face. To my left is a man hooked up to a Mountain Dew–colored IV bag mounted on the wall, passed out sleeping. To my right is a marathoner in need of a serious pick-me-up.

Though it might sound like it, my drinking hasn’t landed me in the hospital—thankfully. Instead, I’ve parked myself in a cushy chair at IV League, a new spot that promises to decrease stress, increase immunity, speed up recovery, and, yes, cure a bad hangover—all with a hydrating IV not unlike what you’d receive in the emergency room, with an added vitamin boost. Vegas partiers have sworn by “banana bags” for years, but the trend is just now making its way to the Hub, where a new crop of businesses are capitalizing on the wellness craze—and Bostonians’ propensity for knocking back a few—with the slow drip, drip, drip of liquid gold. Though scientific evidence of the treatment’s benefits are scant, I’m hoping it’ll make my bad choices from last night feel just a little bit better.

Back at IV League, where a decal on the wall reads, “Work Play Hydrate,” owner Courtney McAuley, a former Boston Children’s IV and ER nurse, helps me choose a concoction from a menu offering four different drips. We decide on “the Knockout,” which contains the usual saline plus a multivitamin “cocktail,” antioxidants, vitamin C, and some additional pain and nausea medicine to vanquish my hangover. I proceed to kick my feet up in one of the black reclining chairs that line the walls, which McAuley tells me are usually completely full of people swapping tales of late-night debauchery on Saturday and Sunday mornings.

Before the needle goes in, I ask McAuley how long the process usually takes, and she tells me about 30 to 40 minutes, depending on how dehydrated you are. A half-hour is plenty of time to fit in a quick nap, I think as I peer enviously at the man snoring across from me. But I barely have the chance to close my eyes before my bag resembles a Capri Sun sucked down to the last drop. “Wow,” McAuley observes. “You really were dehydrated.” I’m just as shocked that my body absorbed the fluids in only 15 minutes, especially since I’m not left feeling much better; though my brain is a little less foggy, the headache and overall exhaustion remain throughout the day. The lesson for me, at least, is the same one my mom’s been trumpeting for years: Enjoy alcohol in moderation, eat your fruits and veggies, and get plenty of sleep. And if you need an extra boost after having a little too much fun, may I suggest the bacon, egg, and cheese bagel from Dunks?