Walk into Atlanta’s Hydration Station on a Sunday morning and you’ll find a dozen people in dimly lit rooms lying on recliner chairs with needles stuck in their arms.
Most of them are hungover from heavy drinking the night before. The needles are pumping sterile saltwater and a cocktail of vitamins and anti-nausea drugs into their veins.
The treatment costs upwards of $US29 and it has become so popular in Atlanta that Hydration Station is opening a second location down the road just nine months after launching the first, according to CEO Keith McDermott.
McDermott describes the concept as a cross between a spa and a doctor’s office. It attracts a mix of athletes and hungover partiers, depending on the time of week. On the weekends, about 75% of Hydration Station’s clientele is hungover, McDermott said.
He wants the business to eventually cater more toward athletes, but he’s not discouraging the traffic from partiers. Hydration Station is sponsoring a pub crawl this weekend and a New Year’s Eve ball on Dec. 31.
“Love this place!” someone wrote in a Yelp review on Oct. 21. “Did a little bit too much drinking the night before and decided to come here… After I left here I felt instantly better — didn’t even need so much as a nap throughout the day. I got the water IV and [vitamin] B12.”
Another reviewer wrote: “After a long party weekend, Hydration Station hit the spot. I felt horrible until I got my IV. It was quick and easy.”
Luke Davis, an athlete and owner of the gym CrossFit Tucker in Tucker, Ga., told Business Insider that he has visited Hydration Station about 10 times since it opened “and would be there a lot more if I didn’t have such a crazy schedule.”
“It really helps with recovery after a really strenuous workout,” he said. “We can recover so much faster and can train again the next day.”
Davis said he usually gets the $US99 “Niagra Falls” package for his training purposes, even though it’s advertised for people in “deathbed territory” on the Hydration Station’s website.
The package includes up to two litres of hydration (or two IV bags), a cocktail of Zofran (anti-nausea), Toradol (anti-inflammatory) and Pepcid (anti-heartburn), 30 minutes of oxygen, vitamin B12, and oral antioxidant and multi-vitamins to go.
Davis said he omits the anti-nausea medicine from his treatment because that’s for people who are ill or have hangovers.
Dr. Robert Shesser, chairman of George Washington University’s Department of Emergency Medicine, told Business Insider that the “Niagra” is a perfectly safe concoction of drugs for someone with symptoms of a hangover or anyone suffering from dehydration after an athletic event.
“All of these medication are used quite frequently and their safety profile is excellent,” Shesser said. Hydrating someone who is suffering from over-intoxication is also a routine procedure, even though the science behind it “isn’t necessarily the strongest,” he said.
“The only scientific basis [for the treatment] is that alcohol is a diuretic so people who drink will have an increase in urinary output and theoretically become dehydrated,” he explained. “But unless you are drinking shots of scotch in the middle of the desert,” you probably won’t lose enough water to need an IV, he said.
“But if it makes people feel better, then great,” he added.
The most popular package at Hydration Station is the $US29 “Baptism,” which includes one IV bag and 15 minutes of oxygen, according to McDermott. One IV bag is equivalent to drinking more than two gallons of water, he said.
The treatments, which typically last up to 45 minutes, are administered by paramedics who work for the Hydration Station part-time. The company employs about eight to 10 paramedics on a rotating basis at the Buckhead location.
To pass the time, customers have a choice of playing with Hydration Station’s assortment of tablets or watching TV.
“People have a fear of needles and apprehension when coming in, especially if they haven’t done it before, so we try and make them as relaxed as possible,” McDermott said.
It Started With A Wedding Hangover
Before launching Hydration Station, McDermott was the vice president of marketing and business development for Biomass Gas & Electric (BG&E). He came up with the idea for the Hydration Station several years ago after attending a wedding where many of the guests, including himself, had overindulged on the night of the rehearsal dinner.
“We were playing golf the next day and the groom told me that they had a nurse who was giving IVs to people to help them get over their hangovers,” McDermott said. “It felt super” and guests were raving about it, he said.
Coincidentally, McDermott had experienced his first IV treatment 10 days earlier when he felt ill after several weeks of travelling for work.
After the wedding-day IV, it dawned on McDermott that the service could work as a business. A Google search told him that there’s a similar service in Las Vegas that operates out of a bus. There’s also one in Chicago called IVMe Hydration Clinic.
But there wasn’t anything like it in Atlanta, aside from hospitals.
McDermott hired Dr. Thomas Roepke, a board-certified physician and friend of his, as medical director and opened the Hydration Station in Atlanta’s Buckhead neighbourhood in March. Roepke developed the company’s range of treatments based on his own research and nearly 20 years of treating patients, according to the company website.
When designing the office, McDermott said he assumed people would prefer private rooms, but “it has become the exact opposite.”
“People come in, they want to share stories about the last marathon they were in, or if they are here for a little over-indulgence, they like to talk about their night out,” he said.
Some people even make a date out of it, he added.
“They meet, go out on dates and stuff on Saturdays and then they come in Sunday morning,” he said. “It’s become a social thing.”
He describes the new office, which is being built five miles down the road in Atlanta’s Brookhaven neighbourhood, as “sleek and spa-like.”
“It’s going to be a cross between the W Hotel and an Apple store,” McDermott said.
Here’s some photos from inside the Buckhead location:
These are members of the Kill Cliff Sports Recovery Drink team, according to Hydration Station:
Here’s another patron:
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