All aboard for hangover debate
IT’S PROBABLY every badly hungover person’s fantasy: you wake up feeling like death on a bad day and just want something – anything – to take the pain away. Imagine if a trained doctor could come to your bedside and administer some intravenous fluids, some anti-nausea medicine, some anti-inflammatory medicine and a bunch of vitamins. That would make life a whole lot easier.
Fantasy became reality when the Hangover Heaven service made its debut in Las Vegas recently. Dreamt up by a local doctor who has seen more than his fair share of bad hangovers, the service is proving to be hugely popular with those who have over-indulged in Sin City and there are already plans to roll it out elsewhere in the US and onwards to Europe this summer.
Hangover Heaven is run by Dr Jason Bourke, a trained anaesthesiologist who used the “physician, heal thyself” principle to medically cure himself of a bad hangover.
“In the recovery room [in the Vegas hospital where he works] I treat people who have nausea, aches and pains and disoriented feelings,” he says. “I treat that all the time with intravenous anti-nausea medications, anti-inflammatory and IV fluids. And I thought: this would treat a hangover. One day I had a bad hangover. I put in an IV with these medications and I was absolutely amazed at how well it worked.”
There are three different Hangover Heaven treatments. For the first two – the Redemption and the Salvation – a specially equipped coach parks outside your hotel and you climb on board for your 45-minute treatment. The Redemption costs $130 (€100) and includes intravenous hydration which, the doctor claims, “can help flush the toxins from your system”.
The Salvation costs $200 and includes intravenous hydration, anti-nausea and anti-inflammatory medications as well as “vitamin supplementation”. The in-room treatment where they come to your bedside and administer the Salvation treatment costs $500 for the first person treated and $375 for each person after.
It’s an expensive business, particularly when you add in the cost of getting into such a state in the first place.
Bourke believes Las Vegas is the ideal trial city for the service. “People come here to blow off steam and have a good time,” he says. “Should we lose an entire day of our vacation because the bartender over-served us the night before? With my treatment protocol, I can take you from a semi-conscious, porcelain-hugging, hit-by-a-truck hangover to feeling like you’re ready to take on the world in less than 45 minutes.”
Lofty claims indeed, but Bourke also warns people they should drink in moderation, that alcohol overdose can kill you and that the Hangover Heaven service is not in place so that you can drink more than is good for you.
On the Hangover Heaven website ( hangoverheaven.com) there is a page of video testimonials from happy customers. Their tales are all similar: they badly over-indulged the night before, woke up in a very sorry state and profess themselves feeling as good as “cured” of their hangover ills after receiving the treatment.
The service has been picking up a lot of attention since its launch last month but for all the talk about how apparently effective the treatment is, there are as many voices from the medical establishment questioning and warning about such a service.
Doctors have been making the point that “a hangover is a wrist slap from nature” in that it is actually helpful for people to experience the negative effects of drinking too much so that they do know the full consequences of “one more for the road”.
Also, if you’re claiming that you can “magically” make the hangover disappear (or even lessen its effects) then surely you are encouraging people to drink irresponsibly?
And a bad hangover is not the only result of drinking too much.
Putting the amount of alcohol needed to generate a bad hangover into your body is medically unsound on very many levels.
And what if the person availing of the service has an existing heart problem, high blood pressure, diabetes or epilepsy? Giving people with existing conditions a putative Get Out Of Jail Free card can be highly irresponsible.
Art Caplan, the director of the Centre for Bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania, told NBC news in the US that “the Hangover Bus doctor is flying in dangerous territory”.
Caplan is opposed to the idea of a trained doctor offering this service as it throws up all forms of ethical dilemmas. “I know this is Vegas but come on . . . ” said Caplan. “Docs should not offer to wash you out” after a heavy night’s drinking.
The Hangover Heaven service – and the interest shown in it by other cities/countries – means this is not a case of “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas”. Expect the controversy about Hangover Heaven to really heat up if it becomes an international franchise.