Jarvia Udosen (left) and her mother, Tirann Udosen, get regular IV drips. Credit: Photo by Louis Tinsley

On a rainy afternoon this past December, Tirann Udosen and her daughter Jarvia were settling into cocoon-like massage chairs in the members-only section of Prime IV Hydration & Wellness in downtown Bethesda. The lights in the curtained-off space were dim, soft jazz played in the background, and the two women were handed soft fleece Prime IV-logoed blankets as they programmed their state-of-the-art loungers to tilt back for maximum relaxation. Tethered to their arms were the intravenous, or IV, wellness drips they had selected only a few minutes earlier.

“What are you getting today?” a Prime IV nurse asked Tirann, 66, as she put the blood pressure cuff on her arm to check Tirann’s vital signs before starting the drip. At first, Tirann selected a “Myers Cocktail”—a popular infusion used to treat everything from hangovers to fatigue—but changed her mind after hearing what her daughter was getting: an anti-aging drip named “The Glow,” loaded with B-complex vitamins, amino acids and biotin to help with skin, hair and nails.

“I always get what she gets,” Tirann said. 

“She’s such a copycat,” responded Jarvia, 42, laughing.  

Mother and daughter have been driving to Prime IV from their home in northwest Washington, D.C., every few weeks since shortly after the shop opened in April 2022. Located at retail level, two doors down from SoulCycle near Bethesda Row, the neon-signed drip bar is part of a Colorado-based franchise with 38 locations around the country, and 77 more coming soon, according to its website. 

Tirann, a registered nurse, says the IV cocktails she’s been getting have helped wean her off most of the “heavy-duty pain medicine” she’d been taking for years to help with chronic pain, as well as the antidepressants she started taking to combat the pain medications’ side effects. It was Jarvia who introduced her to wellness drips after discovering them five years ago while living in New York; Jarvia found they helped her boost her immunity and make her periods more tolerable. 


“I just want to be able to keep it up,” Tirann says about her IV regimen. “Because it makes a difference.”

IV wellness drips have long been the domain of the Hollywood elite. Celebrities from 25-year-old Kylie Jenner to 85-year-old Jane Fonda credit them with keeping their skin glowing, their energy levels up, their workouts more productive and their jet lag at bay.

Harry Styles, Rihanna and Chrissy Teigen have all posted Instagram photos of themselves tethered to their favorite drips. Brad Pitt, according to celebrity magazines and wellness blogs, is a fan of Myers Cocktails, which were developed by a Baltimore doctor in 1954 and contain magnesium, B and C vitamins, and glutathione. And Justin Bieber, in his 2020 YouTube documentary, talks candidly about getting weekly infusions of nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide, or NAD, a popular IV promoted for improving brain function and athletic performance, as well as addiction recovery. 


Now, thanks mostly to social media, lingering COVID fears and a growing skepticism about the limitations of traditional medicine, an increasing number of regular folks are getting in on the IV action. In the past two years, retail chains with street-level signage have sprung up in Bethesda and North Bethesda, offering drips designed to help with anti-aging, brain fog and even weight loss. These centers, generally staffed with registered nurses, are competing with an increasing number of mobile IV companies throughout the D.C. area that, for a surcharge, will perform a wellness infusion in the comfort of one’s home. 

Jarvia Udosen at Prime IV Hydration & Wellness in Bethesda

Medical offices that offer drips are also proliferating. At many of these facilities, infusions involving high doses of vitamins, including Vitamin C, are available only after a thorough exam, extensive bloodwork or by a specialist’s referral. But drips with low doses of vitamins and minerals are on offer to anyone willing to fill out a short medical questionnaire or submit to a brief intake with a staff member. 

At Tavicare, located in a medical high rise in Chevy Chase, a poster-sized menu just outside the office door lists more than a dozen IV cocktails on offer to anyone in generally good health who is seeking enhanced wellness. The drips range in price from $120 for “Basic Hydration” to $750 for a four-hour “Brain Boost.” 


The office isn’t primarily a drip center; it’s the medical practice of Dr. Delara Tavakoli, a gynecologist and integrative medicine doctor. She says that seven in 10 Americans have gut issues, and that for many of them, oral supplements aren’t properly absorbed by their digestive systems. IV “nutraceuticals,” as she calls them, go directly into the bloodstream, bypassing the gut, so they are fully bioavailable. Also, she says, “the American diet is not very nutritious.”

When she started offering IV drips at her office in 2009, there were few other facilities in Maryland to get them, Tavakoli says. Now there are dozens. Back then, 99% of her IV patients were either referred by another physician or began their IV use at her recommendation, she says. Now, many folks come in knowing what they want because they’ve heard about it by word of mouth or via social media. These days, she says, “there are a lot of people who find us … through Google.”

Some medical providers say that the benefits of wellness infusions aren’t worth the cost, which can be significant given that these IVs are generally not covered by insurance. And many doctors say most people’s hydration and nutritional needs can be satisfied by making lifestyle changes, such as drinking more water and eating better. 


There’s also a small risk of infection associated with IVs. According to People magazine, Kylie Jenner was hospitalized in California in 2018 after a bad reaction to one of her regular wellness drips.

Yet Dr. Reena Ranpuria, medical director of Prime IV in Bethesda, says that the risk of infection from an IV at Prime is no higher than at a hospital or physician’s office. “Everything that we do is in a clean environment,” she says, with drips prepared in-house under a sterile hood with appropriate ventilation, and all IVs are administered by licensed or registered nurses. “IVs can sometimes miss and cause a little bit of swelling, but it doesn’t happen often,” she says, adding that there have been no reports from patients of problems after they get home. 

Still, many doctors are skeptical of infusions without medical necessity. “IV therapy is never the end-all, be-all treatment,” says Dr. Andrew Wong, co-founder of Capital Integrative Health in Bethesda. Wong, a primary-care and functional-medicine doctor, says his office performs IVs but only as part of a careful medical assessment that combines a thorough evaluation of a patient’s nutritional needs, exercise protocol, gut health and more. People tend to “focus too much on a single magic bullet treatment, which I don’t think IVs are,” he says. 


In fact, few published studies support such IV use. A double-blind, randomized trial out of Yale University in 2009 did find that Myers Cocktails helped fibromyalgia patients with their symptoms, but not significantly more than the placebo group. And high-dose vitamin C has been shown in several studies to help cancer patients, but the most promising ones show that it helps patients better tolerate chemotherapy, not cure the disease, Wong says.

“There’s a rising tendency to ‘medicalize’ conditions (such as jet lag or hangovers) so that people feel they need a medication or other medical intervention to feel better rather than relying on usual common-sense measures” such as getting some rest and drinking fluids, warns Dr. Robert Shmerling, senior faculty editor of Harvard Health Publishing, by way of email. He also worries that people will forgo more evidence-based therapies while relying on these treatments. “For example,” he emails, “some IV treatments claim to be helpful for asthma—requesting IV fluids with vitamins and minerals to treat asthma is potentially quite risky.”  

In 2018, Shmerling posted an article on the Harvard Health Publishing website cautioning against the use of what he calls “drips on demand.” The same year, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) brought an action against a drip-bar chain operating in Texas and Colorado, chastising it for making claims in its advertising that its IVs “could treat serious diseases including cancer, congestive heart failure, multiple sclerosis, diabetes, fibromyalgia, and neurodegenerative disorders,” even though such claims were not supported by “competent and reliable scientific evidence,” according to the filing.


Since then, most drip bars have toned down their promises and are focusing their messaging on helping people look and feel better. Yet the industry isn’t regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and its popularity continues to grow. Though reliable data isn’t available on the increased use of wellness IVs, the National Center for Health Statistics shows that among all age groups of U.S. adults, daily supplement use has increased over the most recently studied 10-year period. That’s a strong indication that IV supplement use has increased too. 

“From a big-picture perspective, my opinion hasn’t changed since 2018,” writes Shmerling, a rheumatologist. “If anything, I’m even more concerned about it because the marketing and number of companies offering these services appears to be increasing.“

At Restore Hyper Wellness in North Bethesda, Jackie Aguilera, of Rockville, was treating herself to an IV drip called “Amplified Beauty,” which includes Vitamin C, biotin and B vitamins “that taste like Flintstone vitamins,” she said. 


It was a cold December day and Aguilera, who suffers from lupus, said the infusions and injections she gets about once a month at Restore have made a big difference in her energy level. The shop, which opened in September 2020, offers other services too, and Aguilera, 43, has tried many of them. In fact, on this day, pressurized compression boots were zipped up to her knees as she infused. “I sometimes do that as an add-on…before I travel,” she said. “The compression helps with circulation.”

Aguilera says she’s also tried Restore’s infrared sauna, a couple of its specialized facials and its giant cryotherapy machine—larger than any phone booth—where an athletic, middle-aged man with tattooed arms was headed as Aguilera chatted with Restore’s nurse on duty. (Cryotherapy can help with pain relief and muscle healing, the shop’s general manager says.)

“I’m, like, very cautious about my health and very aware and I do extra things to support it,” Aguilera explained as she relaxed on the compression lounger with her IV tethered to a metal stand next to her. She said she’s fortunate that it’s within her budget to try these things, and she knows that’s not true for everyone. Still, she said, “if I didn’t notice a difference, I wouldn’t stick with it.” 


Some of the most popular IV drips

The Myers Cocktail: One of the most popular IV drips around is named after the late Dr. John Myers, who originated them in the 1950s to help patients suffering from medical conditions including asthma, fatigue and migraines. Today, each drip bar blends its own version, but most Myers Cocktails contain Vitamin C, Vitamins B-Complex and B12, magnesium, zinc and glutathione, a powerful antioxidant.

Immunity boosters: Though every drip bar has its own blend focused on strengthening the immune system, most include loads of hydration, as well as zinc, glutathione, B-Complex vitamins and Vitamin C.

NAD (nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide): NAD is promoted as helping mental clarity and memory function, and is often used to treat depression, anxiety and mood disorders. (Some drip bars require certain lab work or a doctor’s approval before administering an NAD infusion.)

Anti-aging drips: Most IV wellness centers offer their own proprietary mix of vitamins, minerals and hydration to help fight wrinkles, keep skin young looking and promote healthy hair and nails. With names like “The Glow” and “Amplified Beauty,” these drips generally include biotin, glutathione and Vitamin C.


Athletic performance drips: To boost energy and stamina, relieve sore muscles and encourage tissue repair, most of these drips—including Prime IV’s “Weekend Warrior”—include plenty of hydration, along with B12 and B-Complex vitamins and performance-enhancing amino acids.

Journalist Amy Halpern has worked in print and television news and as the associate producer on an Emmy Award–winning documentary. She lives in Potomac.

This story appears in the March/April issue of Bethesda Magazine.