When you think of IV drips, you probably think of a medical TV show or a recent hospital stay, not a lunch break activity. But new IV drip bars and lounges are springing up all over the country, making it easier than ever to hook up to a drip. But do you really need to? Probably not.
IV drips are a form of treatment that dispenses nutrients, medications, or hydration directly into a vein. They’re traditionally used in hospital settings to provide hydration, administer a wide variety of medications, and provide nutrients.
They’ve become more popular outside of hospital settings in recent years because of their ability to deliver nutrients and hydration relatively rapidly; Intravenous administration works faster than typical oral ingestion.
IV drips have also seen a bump in popularity as a result of endorsements by athletes and celebrities; Adele and Rihanna are reportedly fans, as well as many professional and amateur athletes.
In a medical setting, they’re usually used to quickly deliver nutrients and hydration to patients who have evidence of dehydration, severe micronutrient deficiencies, blood sugar issues, as well as urgent disease states requiring quick delivery of medications.
Those who regularly use IV therapy outside of hospitals report boosts in energy, mood, and athletic performance.
Drip bars or drip lounges will often feature a menu of formulations claiming to offer different benefits, such as improved immune function or athletic endurance. These formulations might include vitamin C, B12, or glutathione and other vitamins. Perhaps the most widely known formulation is the Myers Cocktail, invented by Baltimore physician John Myers. Current iterations of the Myers Cocktail contain some variation of calcium, magnesium, vitamin C, and B12, and the concoction claims to improve everything from fatigue to pain in patients with fibromyalgia.
Scientific research concerning the efficacy of these treatments in healthy individuals is limited at this time, and most of the current evidence supporting the recreational use of IV therapy is anecdotal.
The biggest difference between IV vitamin therapy and supplementation is time; IV’s bypass the digestive system and are deposited directly into the bloodstream, which means they may work more quickly than traditional oral supplementation. This is one reason why they’re used in hospitals. That speedy result may be short-lived, though. In hospitals, patients are usually hooked up to an IV for much longer than the 45 minutes you may spend at an IV drip bar.
IV vitamin therapy also offers some hydration as compared to a supplement, since the micronutrient formulations are often suspended in a hydrating saline solution.
Many of the risks associated with IV vitamin drips are the same risks associated with all IV treatments; infection at the treatment site, and air embolism if IV’s are not administered properly. IV vitamin therapy may not be appropriate for all people, particularly those with kidney disease or impaired kidney function. Large doses of vitamins can also be harmful, although the doses included in most IV vitamin formulations are often quite modest.
If you’re considering a visit to a drip bar, talk to your doctor first and make sure the location has a licensed healthcare professional on staff. Cleanliness and transparency when it comes to where the IV micronutrients are prepared and what drips contain are also important factors to take into consideration before having a drip.
At Parsley Health, we may occasionally recommend an IV vitamin drip to a member based on specific symptoms or deficiencies, however we find that most people can get the nutrients they need through diet, lifestyle optimization, and medical-grade oral supplements .
Many of the benefits reported by IV vitamin drips can also be obtained through nutrition, supplementation, and lifestyle modifications like exercise and optimizing sleep . In a pinch, IV drips may be useful in helping to recover, perhaps after an illness, but more research is needed and long term, there is no substitution for high-quality self care .
Dr. Jaclyn Tolentino is a board-certified Family Physician with a collaborative, holistic approach to practicing medicine. She specializes in hormone wellness, fertility optimization, and immune health. She has received extensive training through the Institute of Functional Medicine, and has additional experience in integrative oncology.