What is a BORG? Harm Reduction Strategy or Binge-Drinking Disguised?

red solo cups and woman holding beer bottle at college party

BORGS, also known as “blackout rage gallons”, are the newest party staple popping up across college campuses. A mixture of half water, half vodka, a flavored caffeinated beverage, and electrolyte powder – many young adults are calling this TikTok trend a “hangover-proof” drink. Although some experts view this as a clever way to practice harm reduction and take ownership of one’s choices, others are worried that this is just normalizing binge-drinking habits.

We did a Q&A with Outpatient Regional Director Courtney Hulse to get a clinical perspective on the growing trend:

1. Why do some people view BORGs as a harm reduction strategy?

To start, while I don’t argue that there are certain harm-reducing aspects of this method; I believe it depends on the lens through which we are viewing it. For one, you can control what goes into a BORG rather than drink from the communal jungle juice made with various liquors often found at college parties. But just because you know you put eight shots of vodka into your BORG, doesn’t make it any safer.

Also, the risk of someone tampering with another’s beverage, for instance, is lower, but there are greater risks in this popular drinking trend worth understanding before labeling it as a “harm-reduction” practice.

2. Why are teens drinking BORGs? What is all the hype about?

The name alone speaks volumes: Blackout Rage Gallon. College students are creating their own flavored alcoholic GALLON-sized drinks, tailoring them to their own tastes, and the kicker – have less of a hangover the next day! According to Bustle, there is also an entire BORG culture to get behind where people are going a step further and giving their BORGS quirky names like “Cyborg” or “Spongeborg.” So with all this said, what’s not to love?

Answer: A lot, actually.

The idea behind this TikTok drinking trend is that it’s meant to have more of an impact on one’s intoxication (binge) with less of a consequence (hangover). Let that sink in for a second – more intoxication with less of a hangover.

For students mixing and drinking BORGS, that is the ultimate goal; get drunk fast, and feel fine after. And while some experts acknowledge the benefits of including water and electrolytes in this process, we are failing to recognize that one of the main deterrents to dangerous binge drinking has now been removed – the dreaded hangover.

3. If BORGs supposedly eliminate the hangover the next morning, why is this a negative thing?

The idea that this process is that of a harm-reduction model is teaching teens and young adults that, “If I binge drink but hydrate my body with x amount of water and electrolytes, I’ll be fine the next morning.”  The truth is, no matter how much you hydrate your body with water and electrolytes, alcohol is still a depressant and has a severe impact on a person’s body – especially if consumed in excess.

Binge drinking is binge drinking; hangover or no hangover.  Whether you stayed fully hydrated throughout the night or not, you still consumed a potentially toxic amount of alcohol in a short period of time. While any amount of alcohol can be added to a BORG, most videos on social media recommend adding approximately 25.4 fluid ounces of liquor to each BORG. So, maybe you poured 25.4 fluid ounces into your BORG one night and felt fine the next day. Next time around, you consume 30.4, the following, 35, and so on. If there’s no hangover, what’s the worst that can happen?

4. What happens when you add too much alcohol to a BORG? What are the effects of binge drinking?

First off, everyone is different which means alcohol will have different effects on each person. In the case that you consume an excess of liquor, you’ll likely experience alcohol poisoning/overdose, raised tolerance, alcohol-induced blackouts, or worse. Some of the short-term effects you may experience include:

  • Headache
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Loss of coordination and perception
  • Impaired judgment, which may increase the chance of risky behaviors
  • Injuries
  • Violence

BORGs promote harmful binge drinking behaviors that teach impressionable minds it’s cool or “safe” to consume alcohol at high levels. Over time, this can lead to lasting consequences like alcohol dependence and substance use disorder as well as medical complications and issues down the road. Other long-term effects of binge drinking are:

  • Weakened immune system
  • Liver cirrhosis
  • High blood pressure
  • Digestive issues
  • Increased risk of depression or anxiety
  • Throat, esophagus, breast, and colon cancer

5. How should we shift our perspectives on BORGs?

By looking at the reduction of hangover effects we are focusing on the wrong problem; we’re trying to manage the symptoms associated with binge drinking (hangover) which will likely only perpetuate the ongoing pattern of binge drinking itself. Instead of focusing on symptom management of binge drinking, we need to focus on providing awareness of the effects of binge drinking while establishing healthier relationships with alcohol.

If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, Mountainside can help.
Click here or call (888) 833-4676 to speak with one of our addiction treatment experts.