Jonathan Ferrara made a common mistake — he drank too much at Harrah's New Orleans Casino.
Ferrara walked slowly into The Remedy Room, a ritzy rehydration therapy lounge on St. Charles Avenue, with his sunglasses still on. It was just after 10 a.m. on the first day of the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, and he was not about to let his nasty hangover ruin a longstanding tradition.
"I'm a complete novice at this. Normally I'd just tough it out," says Ferrara, the owner of an art gallery on Julia Street who admits he's no stranger to occasional overindulgence. "But I'm a complete Jazz Fest freak — I go all seven days — and I made the mistake of going out last night."
Ferrara signed up to get an intravenous treatment of fluids, vitamins and minerals designed to treat his hangover. For the $149 price tag and hour required for treatment, Ferrara says he hopes it works.
"It's kind of expensive, but this is a specific situation for me," he says, while settling into a plush chair and filling out a standard medical form. "When I was younger I lived with a hangover — not an unusual thing in New Orleans, right? But I guess as you get older, it hits you harder."
Locals like Ferrara as well as tourists visit the clinic after a night of overdoing it, says Dr. Mignonne Mary, who opened the center in July 2013. It follows a trend of high-end hangover treatment boutiques, which offer an almost spa-like atmosphere to those who prefer not to spend the day suffering or self-medicating.
Rehydration clinics first opened in Las Vegas and Miami in the summer of 2012, and then in Chicago and Atlanta. The idea is simple: Replenish fluids to reverse the dehydration brought on by too much alcohol, which causes symptoms such as headaches, nausea and dizziness. Vitamins and minerals are added to some fluids, like the mixture in Remedy Room's The Hangover IV, to help repair the after-effects wrought by alcohol.
But the Remedy Room doesn't just cure hangovers, Mary says. The clinic treats athletes, jet-lagged tourists and other dehydrated patients. Moreover, remedies such as "Wellness Therapy," an IV with vitamins C, B and antioxidants, are used for sick people or folks suffering from allergies, she says.
"IV therapy allows you to get an exact dose," Mary says. "Unlike a vitamin, you get 100 percent of the nutrients absorbed. With a vitamin, only 10 to 20 percent of the nutrients get absorbed."
Whether they're professional athletes, people with the flu or even cancer patients, her clients keep coming back — because the therapy works, Mary says.
"The number one thing you're supposed to do when you're sick is hydrate," Mary says. "This way, you bathe the cells as much as possible. We kind of help them along in their healing process."
Mary is no stranger to the notion using IV therapy as a tool for sick patients. Her father, Dr. Charles Mary, who served as the medical director of Charity Hospital, first began giving patients high intravenous doses of vitamin C 30 years ago.
He was a pioneer when he opened his own private practice, the Mary Medical Clinic, Mignonne Mary says. Her father used vitamin C intravenous treatment to help treat many forms of cancer, from colon to kidney and even metastatic cancer, according to The Mary Clinic website.
"For those of us whose health is less than optimal, we need to remember that it took a while, occasionally many years, to reach the state of disrepair in which we reside," the website reads. "It may take some time to retrain the body — cell by cell — back into proper form and function. In order to accomplish this, we need to pay attention to the smallest detail. What is it that is inside of every one of those cells? That is the basis for vitamin and nutrition therapy — to replace the elements that have been lost from the intra-cellular millieu."
Another way to use IV therapy is as a mental health tool, according to Paula Norris, owner of Springfield Wellness Center, a mental health clinic in Springfield, Louisiana.
At Springfield Wellness Center, doctors administer solutions mixed by a licensed United States compounding pharmacy for the treatment of chemical dependence or chronic stress.
The clinic is devoted to "a nutritionally supported, medically supervised detoxification of addictive substances," as well as anxiety and depression treatment, by using an intravenous formula of a coenzyme of vitamin B3 called nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide, according to Norris.
"It's a mental health tool. We use it as an adjunct to traditional mental health services," Norris says, adding that the formula helps return patients whose chemistry may be off-balance, to a more natural state, hence the name BR+. "It's all about the neurochemistry."
The coenzyme is nonaddictive because it's already part of the body's natural makeup, Norris says.
"Cellular energy is really what it is," Norris says. "It's a nutritional coenzyme the body needs in order to have cellular energy and be able to metabolize. This process decreases oxidative stress. It's part of the brick and mortar in our own bodies."
The treatments, which cost $1,100 per day, are given in conjunction with traditional therapy and counseling, as well as oral combinations of amino acids, vitamins and minerals. The coenzyme formula and detox treatment takes approximately 10 days, and the stress relief treatment takes approximately four days, Norris says. The clinic has offered detox treatments with the coenzyme since 2001 and added stress-relief treatments for patients suffering from post-traumatic stress and other disorders after Hurricane Katrina.
"The results have been pretty dramatic to say the least," Norris says, pointing to more than a dozen patient testimonials posted on the clinic's website.
For New Orleans drug and alcohol counselor Dr. Perry Joseph deLapouyade, the key to any successful treatment is having hard evidence that supports it. Although he doesn't use coenzyme intravenous treatment in his practice, deLapouyade says he believes it could work — especially if the treatments significantly reduce cravings.
"The cravings cause the most problems," deLapouyade says, adding that relapse is common. "We're people that work with drug addicts and alcoholics. We work where the rubber meets the road."
DeLapouyade says he be-lieves in many kinds of natural treatments.
"I believe in giving the body what [it needs] to repair itself," he says.
Even the occasional drinker is finding relief in a city that never seems to stop partying. Ferrara says he felt clarity of mind and a burst of energy after his intravenous hangover treatment — allowing him to enjoy the day at Jazz Fest.
"I would do it again, if the need arises," Ferrara says.
And in New Orleans, it's bound to happen, Mary says.
"This city is on all the time," Mary says. "There's so much to do ... the music is great. Why not enjoy yourself? But people come in, often already dehydrated, and overdo it. We give them their day back."