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Hangover after the Jubilee weekend… Could a vitamin drip give you a lift – or is it a crazy fad'Party drip' containing cocktail of vitamins is proving popular as quick fix for hangoversRihanna tweeted picture of her arm hooked up to a drip last month, after a night of partyingSimon Cowell admitted using hangover tool last yearCost for being attached to drip is 225 per treatment
00:44 GMT, 6 June 2012
Lying in a hospital bed, I watch as a nurse inserts an intravenous drip into my left arm.
It stings a little, and almost immediately I notice a strong vitamin C taste in my mouth, as if I’ve been eating oranges.
As the liquid level in the bag slowly sinks, I start to feel brighter, sharper and my jagged headache softens.
Mixed bag: Sara Lawrence puts an extreme hangover treatment, which involves being attached to an intravenous vitamin drip, to the test
After 20 minutes, I look in my hand mirror and notice my bleary, bloodshot eyes have cleared, too.
Despite this, I cannot help feeling a little guilty. You see, I’m not being treated for a serious illness — there are certainly no life-saving medicines in the drip.
I am suffering nothing more serious than a hangover, and am hooked up to what has become known as the ‘party drip’ — a cocktail of vitamins designed to act as a quick-fix cure for a heavy night out.
Many deluded devotees view it as a near- magic potion that allows them to binge-drink all night as often as they wish without any ill effects.
The latest celebrity advocate is pop singer Rihanna, who tweeted a picture of her arm hooked up to a drip last month, after a night of partying. Though it was reported at the time that she’d been rushed to hospital after a night of excess, she was actually undergoing a medical procedure that has taken celebrity circles by storm.
And, after finding a receptive market in Hollywood, the IV drips are becoming increasingly popular in Britain.
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But doctors and other experts warn that not only do the drips encourage dangerous levels of alcohol consumption, in the wrong hands they could put patients at risk of a range of side effects, from mild infections to potentially fatal anaphylactic shock (a severe allergic reaction).
So far in Britain, the treatment is offered at just a handful of exclusive clinics and health clubs for more than 200 a time —but it is attracting a growing client base.
Last year, Simon Cowell admitted he enjoys a weekly IV drip of B12, magnesium, vitamin C and, he says, ‘something for your liver’ — a procedure recommended to him by Dannii Minogue.
‘When you have it done, it’s an incredibly warm feeling,’ he said. ‘You feel all the vitamins going through you. It’s calming and gives you energy for a good few days.’
When I speak to another convert, air hostess Nicky Bailey, 32, she admits she uses a ‘party drip’ once a month.
Partaker: Last year, Simon Cowell admitted he enjoys a weekly IV drip of B12, magnesium, vitamin C and, he says, something for your liver a procedure recommended to him by Dannii Minogue
She had her first 225 treatment in December at the EF Medispa near her home in Kensington, West London. ‘I was busy working and socialising in the run-up to Christmas,’ she says.
‘I was exhausted, run down and hungover, and needed hydrating and a good boost of vitamins to see me through the party season.
‘Normally, my hangovers last for 24 hours and my headache only starts to recede by the evening of the following day.
‘I feel hazy, with glazed eyes, a brain that feels like spaghetti and an inability to concentrate.
‘After the drip, I felt as if all the badness had been filtered out and I was clear again.
'My mind was sharp, the headache gone and I could even go shopping, something I never do the morning after.’
Far from worrying about the effect her hard-drinking lifestyle might be having on her health, Nicky sees the drip as her ticket to more partying.
‘I need to give my body something back because I take so much out of it,’ she says.
‘I’m going to Ibiza on a week’s holiday with friends next month and I’ve already booked my session for when I get back.’
An early advocate of the party drip is Heather Bird, 42, the founder of HB Health in Knightsbridge, a clinic that offers a variety of intravenous vitamin infusions.
She started ‘dripping’ in 2000 and still uses them regularly. ‘I have trimmed my partying back over the past couple of years, but I used to be out every single night except Sunday,’ she says.
‘This year, I was flown out to Mexico for Philip Green’s 60th birthday party, which was amazing. I also had great fun with Simon Cowell and Kate Moss at Philip’s 59th birthday at Mosimann’s private dining club in Belgravia.’
Heather claims her body needs help to cope with the fast-paced lifestyle she enjoys — and the party drip offers a perfect solution.
‘I gave myself four days of dripping to keep up my stamina for the partying over the Jubilee weekend,’ she says.
‘My penthouse by Albert Bridge overlooks the river, so I was hosting parties non-stop and wanted to look and feel my best.’
But Dr Adam Cunliffe, principal lecturer in human nutrition at London South Bank University, says of the drips: ‘They’re a load of blithering nonsense. People should curb their excesses.
‘I am not aware of any studies that show a genuine physiological benefit. A celebrity endorsement is not evidence.
‘The idea that pumping yourself full of vitamins and minerals is going to redress the balance of an unhealthy lifestyle is a lot of hocus pocus when there is no medical, scientific or clinical research to back it up.’
Concerns: Doctors and other experts warn that not only do the drips encourage dangerous levels of alcohol consumption, in the wrong hands they could put patients at risk of a range of side effects
He believes most of the benefit people claim to feel is down to rapid rehydration.
‘The clinics are working on the assumption their clients are deficient,’ he says.
‘The other assumption is that an excess of vitamins and minerals has some kind of benefit when, in fact, if you are not deficient in something and are given more of it, it does pretty much nothing except be excreted through your urine.’
As for the potential dangers, Dr Cunliffe says: ‘If the procedure is done by a qualified medic who knows how to find a vein and uses clean needles, and the contents of the infusion are from a reputable pharmaceutical supplier, there’s no reason why it should be dangerous.
‘What is dangerous is a less than authentic set-up offering the service at a much lower price, maybe cutting corners in the process.
'People who want to do what the stars are doing, but don’t have the same money may be tempted into situations that don’t have high clinical standards. There would be all kinds of risks, including infection and anaphylactic shock.’
HB Health and EF Medispa, where I try the party drip, use qualified nurses overseen by a doctor.
Jonathan Chick, professor of health sciences at Queen Margaret University in Edinburgh, says: ‘Giving a drip has to be done with care — some people get a fluid overload, which is dangerous.
‘Also, in rare cases, some vitamin preparations can cause ana- phylactic shock.
‘A hangover is never dangerous, but a heavy session of drinking could be. If you cannot control your drinking, you may need to re-think your relationship to alcohol.’
Dr Mark Wright, a consultant liver specialist at University Hospital Southampton, is also scathing about vitamin drips.
this is useless,’ he says. ‘What worries me is the idea that you can
spend now and pay later with your body — you cannot abuse alcohol and
expect this to work as a quick fix.
Popularity increasing: So far in Britain, the treatment is offered at just a handful of exclusive clinics and health clubs for more than 200 a time but it is attracting a growing client base
‘I work with the British Liver Trust, and our message is you need to drink in moderation and ideally have three or four alcohol-free days each week. No amount of intravenous vitamins can change that.’
When I try the party drip, I give it a robust testing. I book an appointment at EF Medispa and have a heavy night at London’s Groucho Club the night before.
I drink two Twinkle cocktails — a delicious, but potent mix of champagne, vodka and elderflower liqueur — before four large glasses of white wine and an espresso martini.
I stagger out at 3am and barely remember the journey home. The next day I feel so fragile I can’t go to my regular early-morning spin class.
I feel shocking — headachy, nauseous and filled with an overwhelming sense of doom.
Unable to face breakfast, I head off to EF Medispa. There is a menu of eight drips, which promise to boost your immune system, calm anxiety or speed up metabolism.
I choose the vitality-booster treatment, a so-called instant ‘pick-me-up’ containing vitamin C, B vitamin complex, and the minerals selenium, magnesium, zinc and chromium.
Being hooked up to an IV line is associated with being ill in hospital, so using it to get over a hangover feels utterly wrong.
The better I feel, however, the less I care. An irresponsible attitude, which makes me worry how easily others could become hooked on it.
The bag takes 30 minutes to empty. When I walk out of the spa — whether it is all in my mind or not — I’m so energised that I power-walk the three miles home.
I definitely feel better, though that may just be down to a ‘placebo effect’, rehydration and the passage of time.
And I have to agree with Dr Wright that this is a dangerous game to play. If party drips became part of my routine, I know I would be inclined to treat my body like an amusement park rather than a temple.
And the price to be paid for that is considerably higher than 225 a go.