Just walk in. It couldn’t be more convenient. No appointment needed, no order from a doctor—you just walk into a storefront clinic and get the IV nutrient infusion of your choice. It’s a popular fad. There are IV lounges, drip bars, boutique vitamin drip shops, rejuvenation stations, even mobile IV services that come to you.
Convenience is good, but it isn’t everything. What if it was made very convenient to walk in and have someone burn your arm with a soldering iron? I doubt that convenience alone would be reason enough to do it. Wouldn’t you want to know if a conveniently available treatment had any benefits and/or any risks? A little research shows that these IV offerings have no proven benefits and are risky. It is not a good idea to just walk in and let people stick you with a needle and put stuff in your veins.
A typical concierge service offers IV hydration and vitamin therapy to treat hangovers, fatigue, jet lag, cold and flu, migraines, and other pain problems and to “help with beauty and skin and athletic performance and recovery.” It helpfully tells customers that 75 percent of Americans are chronically dehydrated (not true) and encourages them to believe that IV hydration is somehow superior to just drinking more fluids. It claims to boost immunity to prevent illness, dizziness, dry mouth, and sleep disturbances (too much or too little). Whaaat? Oh, and it supposedly increases exercise tolerance, improves skin tone, improves nail and skin health, and increases overall energy levels. You can choose your package:
- $129 The Freshman: for hangovers
- $139 The Fifth-Year Senior: for pain rejuvenation, relief of migraines and other aches and pains. (I don’t think I want my pain rejuvenated; I think I want it eliminated.)
- $139 The Walk-On: for athlete rejuvenation, to prepare for a competition or recover from one.
- $169 The All-Day All-Nighter: for body rejuvenation and overall wellness. (Gee, if I believed it could really make my body young again, I’d want to try it, but I can’t believe that.)
The various infusions contain water, electrolytes, anti-inflammatories, essential elements, vitamins, and major amino acids. The website offers no scientific studies, only a blog filled with myths and pseudoscientific silliness.
The Drip Room coined the term dripologist to describe their doctors and nurses. It claims to offer the most effective way to reach maximum vitality in only thirty minutes. Ooh! I’d like to see what maximum vitality feels like, wouldn’t you?
On Science-Based Medicine, David Gorski eviscerated the claims made by another company, iVBars Inc., which had offered IV nutrient infusions to treat cancer, asthma, congestive heart failure, diabetes, infertility, and a whole slew of other medical conditions. All without the slightest shred of evidence. His article highlights the many risks and adverse reactions, including arrhythmias, diarrhea, headaches, allergic reactions, and interactions with other medications. Some of these are potentially fatal. And of course, any time the skin is penetrated there is a risk of introducing infection.
An article on Quackwatch describes regulatory actions against IV nutrition clinics and explains why you should avoid them. They are poorly regulated and could hurt people with unsafe practices. In December 2018, the Kansas State Board of Healing Arts issued an emergency suspension order for a DC and an MD for gross negligence in the care of three patients, improper delegation to unlicensed staff, and failure to do a diagnostic workup on a patient with nausea and vomiting.
Their website made false and misleading claims, including
- Over time our bodies become depleted and are drained of these vital nutrients and energy due to stress, injury, workout, chronic health infections, heavy metal and chemical toxicities, and depleted nutrients in our soils.
- The typical diet, even if we perceive it as “healthy,” does not make up for the deficiencies we experience.
- The loss of these nutrients results in symptoms such as fatigue, pain, accelerated aging, inflammation and weight gain. However, by the time you experience these symptoms, your body has already been depleted of vital nutrients, interfering with the body’s self-healing capacity and creating an opening for diseases to manifest
The Kansas board also entered into a consent agreement with another IV infusion provider. They found that her facility lacked proper protocols for handling complications and its record-keeping was substandard.
In September 2018, the Federal Trade Commission acted against iV Bars Incorporated, the company Dr. Gorski critiqued. The owner signed a consent agreement to refrain from making misleading claims. The company was required to email all customers who had received a Myers cocktail (What’s that? See below.) to inform them that studies had not shown that it was effective for anything.
Celebrities Do It
Kendall Jenner had to be hospitalized for a bad reaction to a “Myers cocktail” vitamin IV drip. Chrissy Teigen gets IVs in bed at home. Gwyneth Paltrow swears by them. Michael Jackson used them. But news stories reporting celebrity use also quote medical experts who say the infusions are not medically indicated.
A Myers cocktail contains magnesium, calcium, B vitamins, and vitamin C. It is advertised as a fast way to get critical nutrients and hydration into the body and can be taken once or twice a week. There is no evidence, other than some unreliable testimonials, that it does any good. In fact, one small study showed that patients who got Myers cocktails for fibromyalgia did no better than a control group.
It’s not hard to understand why people who lack critical thinking skills fall for these things. They hear that celebrities they admire are doing it. They hear glowing testimonials from people who think they have benefited. They have been fed misinformation about the effects of vitamin supplements and other nutrients. They like to try new things. It’s convenient and easy. IVs are impressive technology. It’s relaxing: they get to lie down and rest for half an hour. They expect to feel better, and suggestion does the rest. There is a social desire to please those nice people who are trying to help them. They hear, “Try it; you’ll like it.” They get stuck with a needle, but they have heard “no pain, no gain.” They feel virtuous; they pride themselves on having taken action to improve their health. They have to convince themselves that they were right to justify spending all that money.
The Bottom Line
Don’t jump on this bandwagon. It’s more likely to harm you than to help you. Get your nutrition from a healthy diet, not from a storefront snake oil enterprise. There are much better ways to spend that money.
This article was originally published as a SkepDoc’s Corner column on the CSI website.