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Hangover headquarters

(Hilary Higgins )
January 15, 2013|By Mick Swasko, @mickswasko | RedEye

It was supposed to be a chill night for Ahmed Braimah. Maybe a few rounds of a Jenga drinking game and catching up with friends from out of town. Then someone suggested hitting the clubs.

By 4 a.m., the group of about eight had downed two bottles of vodka and a bottle of whiskey. The 35-year-old River North resident said he was run down and had a headache when he woke up from the unusually heavy night of drinking.

"I was feeling a little sluggish, let's put it that way," he said.

Instead of pounding some Gatorade and popping a few Tylenols, however, Braimah took a new route to hedge his hangover: He had a needle stuck in his arm.

Braimah was one of the first to visit Revive Hydration Clinic, a new Chicago clinic that opened mid-December, having learned about it from a friend who helped launch the River North business. Revive offers "expedited hydration therapy," the first clinic of its kind in the Chicago area, located at 222 W. Ontario St. Using intravenous treatments—that is, IV drips, much like those used in hospitals—general and trauma surgeon Jack Dybis said he hopes launching Revive will aid a variety of patients. One obvious market, he said, is those suffering from the headache, dry mouth, nausea and fatigue of a hangover.

The $99 treatment took about an hour, and Braimah said it worked like a charm. He felt a "healthy glow," and all the symptoms from the morning were gone by the time he left the clinic, he said. Dybis said the concept isn't new—for years, young medical residents working long hours have self-medicated using IV bags to get themselves back on their feet. Some in the medical community say the treatment is unnecessary and potentially risky, especially for a temporary ailment like a hangover. But Dybis says it's a missed market in Chicago, and will improve quality of life.

"We used to lie around [in college] and talk about feeling miserable and say 'if we could only have a blood transfusion," Dybis said. This past April, one of his college friends sent him an article about Las Vegas' "Hangover Heaven," which claims to cure a hangover in under an hour using IV treatments. The idea for Revive was born.

"My whole goal really is to take someone who is feeling miserable, and in an hour they feel great," he said. "We're trying to merge and emergency room and a spa."

Dybis said patrons at Revive fill out a short medical history along with a list of symptoms. He's aiming to hit five categories of patients: those with hangovers, athletes who seek quick hydration, people suffering from cold or flu, the jet-lagged and people seeking detoxification-type treatments. A special formula of prescription drugs, vitamins and saline solution is prepared for the procedure.

During a special preview and the clinic's opening weekend, Dybis said he saw about 40 patients, about 75 percent of whom sought treatment for hangovers. He said the reaction among those who tried it was "overwhelmingly positive."

But Rahul Khare, an emergency medicine specialist at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, said IV treatments are medically unnecessary for hangovers, and he worries they could lead to further issues.

"These medical spas for hangovers, they're almost a luxury item, and definitely not necessary for people to get better," he said. "This is kind of a slippery slope; you have to be very careful if you want to start doing this type of recovery."

All of the drugs used at Revive are FDA-approved for the symptoms they treat. Khare said risks such as infection from a needle are small if someone is treated once or twice, but repeated visits could cause problems. He agrees that an IV can cure a hangover more quickly, but it could lead some to overindulge on a regular basis if bouncing back is so easily accomplished.

"If you're getting to a point where you're so hung over that IV fluids and prescription medications are necessary for you to function, then you have other significant problems," he said. "The good thing about alcohol is that there are severe consequences. [The treatment] may enable people to drink more because the consequence can be lessened."

Dybis said he agrees the treatment is a luxury, and that hangovers will disappear without an IV. But he said all precautions are taken to prevent risk, including having a licensed physician on the premises at all times, and making sure all staffers are board-certified for treatment.

"I want to go above and beyond the standard of care," he said. Additionally, Dybis said he would advise a regular customer using the service for hangovers of the risks and ask them to seek outside treatment. "If somebody is doing that, we're going to take them aside and talk to them. We're not condoning that type of behavior."

While the treatment is new to the Chicago area, some have already heard of it. Brittany Collings, 29, of River West, said she's heard of Hangover Heaven, and would try it herself. As a bartender at Rockit Bar and Grill downtown, she frequently goes out after late nights at work.

"I would totally do it," she said. "It's just rehydrating your body; I don't see any harm in that." But, she added, the market for those who binge drink to the point of hangover might make the $99 price point a tough sell.

mswasko@tribune.com

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