College students drinking blackout rage gallons — also known as BORGs — is a growing trend on social media. BORGs are gallon-sized jugs that contain a mixture of water, alcohol, water flavor enhancers, and electrolytes.
Some students claim that BORGs are safer than other methods of drinking. But they carry as much risk as other forms of drinking, especially when consumed in excess.
Learn more about what’s in a BORG and how it can harm your health.
What Are BORGs?
BORGs are a growing drinking trend in recent years among college students. Social media — especially video platforms — have increased their popularity. Platforms like TikTok contain many video examples of students creating and consuming BORGs. Those videos have garnered tens of millions of views.
“Certainly, TikTok has really ramped up the notoriety of this process,” says Anthony Pizon, MD, chief of Medical Toxicology, UPMC. “That peer pressure, the mystique of it, the interest — it certainly does attract people when there are these trending issues on TikTok.”
Like other drinking trends, BORGs can become very harmful. In March 2023, a BORG drinking challenge at the University of Massachusetts Amherst landed more than 40 students in the hospital. The university and the town of Amherst issued a joint statement afterward warning about BORGs.
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What’s in a BORG?
A BORG is a gallon-sized container that often contains a mixture of the following:
- Powdered or liquid water flavor enhancers.
- Electrolyte mixes or other “hangover cures.”
How Much Alcohol Is in a BORG?
The amount of alcohol in a BORG varies. According to the National Capital Poison Center, some videos show students adding up to a fifth of alcohol. That equals 750 milliliters, or about 25.4 fluid ounces, of alcohol — or about 17 shots.
“The big issue is the volume or the amount of alcohol and the rapidity in which they drink it,” Dr. Pizon says. “The recipes I’ve seen are anywhere from 450 milliliters of alcohol to 750 milliliters of alcohol. And that’s anywhere from like 10 shots of hard liquor to like 16 or 17 shots of hard liquor. If you’re going to consume that much alcohol over a short period of time, that’s a lot.”
Dr. Pizon says the other ingredients in a BORG are less worrisome, although many water flavor enhancers contain caffeine. If used in moderation, those other ingredients shouldn’t pose a health risk.
“The alcohol content is what mostly bothers me,” Dr. Pizon says.
Are BORGs Safe to Drink?
Proponents of BORGs claim that they’re safer methods of drinking because they can control how much alcohol they add. But BORGs often contain excessive levels of alcohol, which poses both short-term and long-term health risks.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one 1.5-ounce shot equals one drink. It is binge drinking when:
- Men consume five or more drinks in a period of two to three hours.
- Women consume four or more drinks in a period of two to three hours.
Most BORGs contain much more alcohol than this.
“Just to give people a ballpark idea, it obviously depends on the weight of the person and how quickly they drink a drink. But usually, if you drink quickly enough, two to four standard alcoholic beverages or two to four shots of an alcoholic beverage would get somebody to the legal limit,” Dr. Pizon says. “With BORGs, we’re talking 10 to 17 shots, so you can imagine the factor.
“For some people, this could be what we consider a potentially lethal dose of alcohol. There is a lethal dose of alcohol depending upon your tolerance, your weight, and your gender. And, so, certainly, if you drink that much alcohol in quick succession, which is possible, you can make yourself really sick.”
The risks of binge drinking
Binge-drinking episodes also have other short-term and long-term risks. According to the CDC, those include:
- Unintentional, potentially life-threatening injuries (such as from falls, motor vehicle accidents, and burns).
- Physical violence.
- Sexual violence.
- Sexually transmitted diseases.
- Unintended pregnancy and/or poor pregnancy outcomes.
- Chronic diseases like heart disease, liver disease, high blood pressure, and stroke.
- Many different types of cancer.
- Memory and learning problems.
“This is a trend in terms of people drinking large amounts of alcohol regularly, but it leads to addiction, it leads to liver issues,” Dr. Pizon says. “It can lead to other criminal issues if someone decides to drink that much alcohol and get behind the wheel of a car or injure somebody else. So, from societal problems to personal health problems, this does pose a lot of problems for people in the long term.”
Tips for Responsible College Drinking
To avoid the problems of excessive drinking, it is important to drink responsibly. Ways you can practice responsible drinking include:
- Drink in moderation. The CDC considers moderate drinking to be two drinks or less per day for men or one drink or less per day for women. You should avoid binge drinking (five or more drinks for men and four or more drinks for women).
- Know the signs of too much alcohol consumption. Warning signs of intoxication include slurred speech, slower reaction time, loss of motor skills, disinhibition, and more.
- Have a designated driver. Do not drink and drive.
- Space out your alcoholic beverages. Avoid drinking multiple drinks in a limited amount of time.
- Stay hydrated. Drink water in between alcoholic beverages to avoid dehydration.
- Know what you’re drinking. Do not let anyone put anything in your drink that you’re not familiar with and always keep your drink with you.
- Avoid mixing drugs or alcohol. Mixing drinking and drug use can have major health consequences.
“Moderation is the key,” Dr. Pizon says. “There are safe ways to consume alcohol: moderation, limiting how much alcohol you’re consuming, making sure you have a designated driver, making sure you can recognize significant inebriation in yourself or a friend.
“If you are going to drink, drink responsibly, have a limited number of alcoholic beverages, have a designated driver, space out your beverages, and know what you’re consuming.”
In addition, some people should not drink under any circumstances. People who should not drink at all include:
- People under age 21.
- People who are pregnant or think they may have gotten pregnant.
- People with medical conditions or those who take medications that have negative interactions with alcohol.
- People with alcohol use disorders.
The UPMC Division of Medical Toxicology is part of the Department of Emergency Medicine. To learn more about what we treat, visit us online.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Binge Drinking. Link
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dietary Guidelines for Alcohol. Link
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Infographic: What Is Excessive Alcohol Use? Link
Madison Malone Kircher, New York Times, What Is a Blackout Rage Gallon. Link
National Capital Poison Center, What Is a Borg? Link
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