Tex. Paramedic Starts Mobile Vitamin IV Business
June 13—Jaron Black is about to slide a needle into my arm while we're sitting in the back of his van.
"You have very hearty veins," he says while prepping my skin for the insertion.
This sounds bad, doesn't it? And even though this injection is going to produce a sense of euphoria, it isn't what you think it is.
Black's Mercedes Benz van is parked outside my Montrose home because he's about to pump a solution of vitamins into my body. His Drip Dynamics mobile business is part of a health trend that's been used by celebrities, cancer patients and people just wanting to kill their hangovers via the influx of vitamins.
While the health benefits of these infusions is still being studied by health experts, and doctors generally recommend eating food for your nutrients, Black's clientele suggests it's a trend that has some staying power. He drives around Houston helping people with everything from lethargy to flu symptoms.
"We have been able to take care of a lot of marathon runners before and after they ran. We've done CrossFit competitions, the Iron Man and lots of other races and events," Black says. "We also have clients who have cancer, Parkinson's, migraines and chronic dehydration issues."
Today, the 13-year veteran of the Houston Fire Department started Drip Dynamics is sticking an IV into my arm, just where a tattooed lightning bolt strikes. The heartiness of my veins is no consolation to me as the needle goes in.
The contents of the IV bag take over my body quickly. My chest feels cold, like I've just swallowed a big glass of ice water. After a few minutes a great euphoria hits and my entire body feels at ease. I have a desire to hear early period Neil Young in an almost post-orgasmic haze. It's at this point I remark on how plush the seats in the van are.
"Yeah, you're in business now," Black laughs, standing over me wearing black rubber gloves. "Most people don't know what healthy feels like anymore."
My body is getting a high dosage of vitamins and minerals and fluids that it's never experienced—3,500 milligrams of vitamin C coursing from the IV. Additional amounts of magnesium, B-complex vitamins, B-12, biotin, glutathione, zinc and anti-nausea drug Zofran are also barreling through my bloodstream. The vitamin C acts as an anti-inflammatory.
Black got the idea to start poking people with needles during his time off from fighting fires last summer.
He currently has Houston Texans players, mixed martial arts fighters, CrossFit athletes and cancer patients among his clientele. One of Black's frequent patients is Taylor DeMartino.
"You know your parents teach you when you are young to never get in a stranger's van, especially a white van," DeMartino says on a June afternoon as he's using his smart phone, lounging next to Black.
DeMartino owns an event design company in Houston which keep hims on his toes, producing weddings and corporate events.
"I rely on this heavily for my job because it's extremely stressful," he says as Black preps his right arm for an IV. After his treatment DeMartino is ready to take on another weekend of work.
"Many people say that we should be able to get all the vitamins and minerals from the food that we eat but I will beg to differ," Black says. "Is it possible, yes, however it would have to be a full-time job prepping, supplementing, eating and drinking. I do not know many people who can live that life."
Drip Dynamics works under the oversight of a licensed medical director, who governs the company's protocols. Black has accounts with compounding pharmacies that sell and supply him with nutraceuticals under that license. And for $179 a pop Black or a member of his growing team will arrive wherever you are and serve you an IV cocktail of your choosing.
"The amount of IVs we did during flu, cold, and strep season was crazy," Black says. "It was seriously the worst flu season I have ever seen in the 13 years of being a paramedic."
Black stresses that IV therapy should be a prevention tool and not an end-stage treatment.
Dr. Luis Rustveld, assistant professor of family and community medicine and a registered dietitian at Baylor College of Medicine, tells me later that studies are still out on treatments like this.
"There is a lot of hype about vitamin injections right now, from everything from cancer treatment to hangover cures," he says. "Studies are still being done to see what the long-term side effects are for these type of injections."
Rustveld is of the mind that people would be better off getting their nutrients through food instead of IVs, but what's the fun in that, doc?
"Some people do feel quite energetic after they have gotten one of them," he says. "But there is not evidence that it can help long term just yet."
Rustveld concedes that some can benefit from getting an injection of a mixture of vitamins in the short term. It doesn't prevent any diseases, Rustveld reminds, but that's not why people are calling Black's van.
"You definitely feel like you have much more energy and if you haven't been eating right it can balance you out," Rustveld says. "It's important to be conscientious about your own body."
"If you feel good that cannot be discounted," Rustveld says, adding that preliminary studies are showing that these treatments can be affective for people that have sepsis, a serious blood infection. He says the chemo patients should get the permission of their oncologists before getting a nutrient-rich IV.
"There is no danger in getting vitamin injections and the hangover cure aspect is very enticing," Rustveld says. "It's a phenomenon for sure."
As I step out of Black's van after the treatment, I notice the trees are greener, the early evening air is cooler and my feet almost bounce in running shoes. I feel like that Nicolas Cage GIF from "Con Air" when he steps off the prison bus, with the wind blowing his hair back and a close-eyed smile appreciating the moment.
The effects of the IV infusion last until later that evening when a stinging Houston Rockets playoff loss takes a bite out of my euphoria. There are some things even thousands of milligrams of good stuff can't fix.