This article originally appeared on VICE UK.
Previously, IV treatments had only really been advertised to the sort of people who get their routine cosmetic procedures done at Harley Street – not the plebeian hungover masses. But over the last half a year, clinics have opened in shopping malls and city centres, marketing drips that promise to cure your comedown in 30 minutes, while you take a hooked-up selfie for the grid.
This culminated in a scandal around the "fertility" IV drip, which went on sale for £250 in June and has since been taken off the market after rightful outrage from women and medical professionals, who said there was absolutely no evidence it could boost your fertility, and that it was taking advantage of emotionally vulnerable women.
Despite this, I couldn't help but feel drawn toward the other IV drips on offer – ones which claimed to help me with everything from "mood boosts" and "slimming" to "anti-ageing" and "skin brightening".
"The benefits of supplementing intravenously – as opposed to orally – is that you'll absorb 100 percent of the vitamins," says Luke from REVIV, the global leading provider of "direct wellness therapies". "Taken orally, compounds are broken down by the time they can be absorbed, meaning a lower level of vitamin reaching our cells."
Fair enough, but I wanted a second opinion – this time from someone who isn't paid to talk up IV drips. Junior doctor Sabine Rainton gave me her thoughts: "It will help with dehydration... but you know what also helps dehydration? Water. From a tap."
Rainton adds that there are risks involved with the drips. "Every time you breach the skin/blood barrier you're risking bacteria getting in. Bacterial infections in the blood are bad, and can result in sepsis," she explains. "This is rare, and when patients need IV we have always weighed up the risk, and use an aseptic technique to insert the cannula [the thin tube that enters the body]."
She adds that she'd never advise someone to go through unnecessary procedures like these with "no proven benefit, advertised in misleading ways".
Still, what's an expert's opinion worth these days? The adverts say you can just pop by during a shopping trip and "become well" – and there was no way to know for certain whether we're being colossally mugged off by this trend than having it injected directly into my veins.
The High Street: Get A Drip, Boxpark
Get a Drip have locations at Westfield and Boxpark, and IV treatments for everything from hangover cures to healthier hair growth. I wasn't asked to fill out any medical forms beforehand, just to turn up. The clinic had big Instagram vibes – colourful IV bags in the windows, plants hanging from the ceiling – and didn't feel at all clinical. Tourists kept walking in, taking selfies, then leaving.
The nurse – who also worked as an NHS nurse – asked me to fill in a quick medical health questionnaire (which raised red flags), then WhatsApped the Doctor to give me the OK. While I waited, my blood pressure was taken. It was a bit high, so after five minutes of relaxing they took it again and then tried to cannulate me.
I encountered a problem here: I have several chronic health conditions, and getting blood out of me, or a cannula into me, is sometimes impossible due to the fact my veins are small and prone to collapse. In this case, my shit veins struck again. After several stressful attempts, we gave up. They did give me a big Vitamin D injection instead, but honestly I haven't felt anything from it.
What I would have had: Energy Drip (Vitamin B Complex, Vitamin B12, Methylcobalamin, Amino Acids, Magnesium) + Vitamin D Injection
The semi-bouji clinic: REVIV
REVIV have 72 clinics in 32 countries, and all medically-trained staff. The clinic resembled what I imagine a spaceship to look like. Pure white, with flat screen TVs displaying thin, healthy, happy people. I'd already filled out an extensive health questionnaire, and a doctor had prescribed my drip based on my conditions and medications; a cocktail of Vitamin C, antioxidants and electrolytes, which would boost my energy levels and my shocking immune system.
I was taken into a room to be cannulated by a nurse, who again was a NHS nurse and worked at REVIV part time. She told me she would work there full time, but didn't want to lose her NHS pension, and that she genuinely felt the NHS would fully privatised ten years from now. So there'sa nice tidbit.
Anyway, I got a little numbing spray, and after two attempts we got a vein. I then sat down in the white leather seating area and had my drip. It did feel very efficient, like I could carry on with my high powered business day straight after having this hangover-piss liquid pumped into my bloodstream. I was also given an injection of CoQ10+ in my arse, an antioxidant that would supposedly help with one of the medications I take daily.
I felt great immediately after, and the morning after – but again, I didn't feel particularly hydrated or energetic or special in the days following.
What I had: Megaboost Signature wellness infusion & Glutathione, CoQ10+ injection.
Cost: £248 (lol).
The Harley Street Clinic: IV Boost
IV boost is off Harley Street, and was the most clinical of the three places I visited. I had an extensive talk with the doctor about my conditions before my appointment, filled out the longest medical form and was efficiently moved to the IV room, which had a row of reclining medical chairs.
The nurse got my vein first go, hooked me up and left me to relax. My drip was an anti-ageing IV, because I'd already had a load of vitamins over the previous two weeks.
This was by far the best experience I had. In the 24 hours after I woke up I actually felt refreshed. Normally, due to my health conditions and the fistful of meds I take, it feels like my eyeballs have dried out and I've boshed 20 sedatives – but this time I felt energised and focused on work, and my skin was clear and plumped out, like I'd had a facial.
That said, after the initial 24 hours I was back to feeling like the same tired, dried-out slug as always.
What I had: Anti-Ageing IV Booster Mitogive Glutathione IV (Magnesium Sulphate, Calcium Gluconate, Selenium, Zinc, Vitamin C, B Complex, Vitamin B5, Vitamin B6, Vitamin B-12, Arginine, Carnitine, Cystine, Glutamine, Glycine). AKA a fuck load of stuff.
Cost: £495 (my rent, basically).
During every IV I felt like I was doing something officially good to my body. The more clinical (and more expensive) the setting, the more it felt like a proper procedure, which almost legitimised any results of the treatment. But this feeling only lasted, at most, for 24 hours, even at a whopping half-a-grand cost.
Increasingly in the $4.2 trillion wellness world, complex skin care regimes are purposely designed to look like chemistry sets, smoothies and juices are branded as medicinal tonics and oils and mists look like pill bottles. IV therapy leans into this same faux-scientific aesthetic. As women feel worse in the current climate, trends like the IV drip feel exploitative. Who among us is not just searching for anything to help them feel better, whether that be rehydration, a skin glow-up or, more worryingly, something that promises to improve our fertility and chronic health conditions?
We won't be feeling more positive and full of health any time soon, so I can't imagine this trend – which is, frankly, already out of control – going anywhere. But to be honest, if you want to spend silly money to feel hydrated, you'd be much better off buying a bottle of VOSS.