- The TikTok BORG trend is drawing attention by experts for being unhealthy.
- BORG stands for “blackout rage gallon” and refers to an alcoholic drink that is made by filling a one-gallon jug with a combination of water, up to a fifth of vodka, a caffeinated flavor booster and electrolytes.
- The theory behind the BORG is that it allegedly reduces some of the risks that come along with drinking at college.
A new TikTok trend is sweeping college campuses across America and it’s certainly turning heads. The new “BORG” trend, which stands for “blackout rage gallon” is a new fad on the popular video-sharing social media platform that promises a “hangover-free’ drinking experience and, allegedly, a harm-reduced way to drink.
But like many trends on TikTok, is there any actual validity to these claims or is it just the latest in a string of trends that could be more harmful than anything else?
BORG stands for “blackout rage gallon” and refers to an alcoholic drink that is made by filling a one-gallon jug with a combination of water, up to a fifth of vodka, a caffeinated flavor booster and electrolytes. The theory behind the BORG is that it allegedly reduces some of the risks that come along with drinking at college.
“[The BORG] is traditionally used at parties that take place during the day, like tailgate parties or day-long parties. In terms of what the consequences of the BORG is, it depends on what you’ll do with the gallon jug,” said Dr. Tucker Woods, chair of the emergency department and medical director of Lenox Health Greenwich Village.
“The name has its shock value,” he added. “It’s the ‘blackout rage gallon.’ But the BORG can be looked at as a form of harm reduction in some instances. The reality is that college students will drink alcohol and you hear horror stories of students who binge drink, and the subsequent consequences. It’s a parent’s worst nightmare. Some look at the BORG as a safer alternative and as a way to take control of your own alcohol content.”
Taking control of your own alcohol content means that you, as the creator of your own personal BORG, know the contents of the drink, as opposed to the frequently consumed “mystery juice” that people can drink at college parties. Also, because it’s a closed container that you will likely have on your person throughout the party, it’s presumably less likely that someone will slip something nefarious into your beverage.
“Some view the BORG as empowering people to make safer choices,” said Woods. “You can tailor the contents to your own limits. If you got sick last time on X amount of shots, when you make your BORG you would make it with less alcohol.”
Of course, whatever good intentions the BORG was designed with, actual execution can play out quite differently.
“There are a ton of dangers to this,” said Dr. Pantea Farahmand, clinical assistant professor in the Departments of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry and Adult Psychiatry at NYU Langone Health. “Whenever you advertise a ‘harm reduction strategy,’ it has to be one that is tested. Something like this seems incredibly dangerous. When we’re thinking of quantities of drinking that are considered safe, more than two shots is not considered safe. Mixing that with water is one thing, but if you’re adding caffeine, that is dehydrating and will undo any positive effects of the water. Who really cares about additional electrolytes being added? It won’t cancel out the amount of damage alcohol can do.”
“It all depends on what you put into the container and how you conduct yourself,” said Dr. Woods. “Sometimes at these [college] parties, someone will tell you to ‘finish your beer.’ And that person will. If you did that with a BORG, it can be really dangerous depending on how much alcohol you’ve added. I think it’s important to arm yourself with information and know your own limits.”
It also depends on how quickly you intend to drink your BORG.
“It goes without saying that even though the name has the shock value, the goal is to never actually black out,” said Woods.
“A BORG can kill someone,” said Farahmand. “I think different generations have different trends and the difference with Gen Z is that they have access to a lot of information very quickly. I’m not surprised that this started somewhere like TikTok. You have access to millions of people coming up with the same idea and who propagate misinformation a lot more quickly. If you’re a young person and hear enough people saying the same thing, even if you have your doubts, you might fall for it.”
According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism,
“People drink alcohol and that’s fine, but they should know their limits,” said Farahmand. “If you’re walking around with a gallon of a beverage and you’re thinking you may drink the whole [thing,] that’s not safe at all. In general, alcohol is something that will poison a person. It’s a respiratory depressant so you can stop breathing [if you over-drink]. You can see changes in the brain of alcohol-related dementia. Every organ is impacted [by alcohol].”
TikTok trends are trends in themselves these days and they can be pushed forward by the demographic most associated with the app — Gen Z.
But why this trend in particular? Experts seem to think that the pandemic has a lot to do with it.
“In the beginning, there were concerns about COVID being spread by touching surfaces and sharing glasses. [The BORG] trend came out as an alternative way to still have fun but not share containers,” said Woods.
Farahmand has another perspective.
“Gen Z, more than any other generation in the last years, experienced a pandemic that drastically changed how they socialized, which resulted in mental health challenges and psycho social stressors. All of these things impact a person’s approach to alcohol and mental illness,” she said. “As a generation they are more predisposed because they spent two years in lockdown in a socially depressed state and then were forced to readjust. If you’ve been locked in a room for two years, that will developmentally put people in a weird spiral.”
That said, college kids have consumed alcohol long before the pandemic. For many college students, parties and alcohol at those parties are part of the entire college experience.
“It’s important for people to know their limits with alcohol. You can make the BORG safer if you make it tailored to your limits, rather than with high quantities of alcohol,” Woods said. “The name of the trend may have a shock value, but the meaning behind the name should not be your intention.”