Top NHS doctor warns of “exploitative” party drips claiming to cure hangovers

NHS England’s medical director has criticized companies and celebrities for promoting so-called “party drips” as hangover cures and warned the public about the dangers of using them.

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Although the intravenous drips are touted as “miracle hangover cures,” there is no evidence to support this, he says.

As millions of people prepared for New Year celebrations, Stephen Powis warned the public that the “exploitative” therapies, which are sold at a starting price of £75, and are not only a rip-off but also potentially dangerous.

Regular use of the drips, which are a cocktail of saltwater, vitamins and nutrients, can, in some cases, cause nausea, liver damage or even death due to a toxic overdose of vitamin A.

Celebrity involvement

Various celebrities have used their media presence to endorse various brands of the so-called hangover cures, but not all have had a positive experience after using the drips. One celebrity, Kendall Jenner, was hospitalized following an allergic reaction to a product called the “Myer’s Cocktail,” an IV drip, made up of saline solution, magnesium, calcium, B vitamins and vitamin C.

Powis said that, at a time when health misinformation is running riot on social media, it is reckless and exploitative of companies to peddle ineffective and misleading treatments and that celebrities and influencers who help them do this are letting their fans down.

Healthy people do not need IV fluids

Powis points out that IV drips are usually administered by medical professionals to boost nutrient levels in cases where this is required.

People who are healthy do not need IV drips. At best they are an expensive way to fill your bladder – and then flush hundreds of pounds down the toilet – but at worst they can cause significant damage to your health."  

Stephen Powis, Medical Director, NHS England

“Miracle hangover cures and quick fixes simply don’t exist”

Powis acknowledges that many people want to enjoy themselves at New Year, but says that nothing beats eating well and drinking sensibly when it comes to staying well and that a much better way to “cure” a hangover is to drink plenty of water and get some fresh air.

Powis says, “Miracle hangover cures and quick fixes simply don’t exist, and anyone online who says they do is probably out to make a quick buck at your expense.”

The drips are easily accessible at home, shopping centers and salons

The drips used to be the preserve of expensive celebrity clinics, but now they are easily available, with some companies offering to deliver them to people at home, in large shopping centers or in high street salons. The drips are still costly, but some companies offer discounts for groups or multiple purchases.

However, doctors maintain that, generally, hangovers cannot be "cured" and that nursing a hangover is more complicated than simply putting a needle in your arm.

The risk of organ damage and infection

Most hangover cure fads have been disproved by health experts who say exposing the liver and kidneys to excess levels of vitamins can place these organs under significant stress. The National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) has prohibited companies from offering the drips to people if they have not screened liver and kidney function beforehand.

Furthermore, IV vitamin therapy is always associated with a risk of infection, since a direct path into the bloodstream is created any time an IV line is inserted.

Despite these dangers, the drips are being touted by celebrities and influencers, not only for curing hangovers but also for strengthening the immune system, burning fat, increasing energy, enhancing mood and decreasing stress and anxiety.

However, there is no scientific basis for any of these claims and clinics have already been warned by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency that they must clearly advertise that the drips are intended for non-medicinal purposes only.

Sally Robertson

Written by

Sally Robertson

Sally first developed an interest in medical communications when she took on the role of Journal Development Editor for BioMed Central (BMC), after having graduated with a degree in biomedical science from Greenwich University.


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The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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