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To BORG or not to BORG: Safe alternative or dangerous trend?

College students are trading in the red Solo cups for BORGs. – Photo by Tik Tok

If you're a college student on TikTok, you've probably seen a BORG on your "For You" page. Maybe at this point, it's already made it to Instagram reels. The "blackout rage gallon," or BORG as it's known, is the newest trend in drinking — which seems like a remarkably depressing and dangerous sentence until you get into what a BORG actually is. 

As someone of legal drinking age who will likely never see another Rutgers dage in her life, the BORG doesn't catch my interest very much as a consumer. But when I got multiple doctors on my feed advocating for the use of a BORG as a harm reduction tactic, it piqued my interest.

At the time of writing, "#borg" had more than 74 million views on TikTok. The tag is filled with tutorials of college students making them, doctors discussing them and people thinking of creative names to give them.

The BORG has taken over the young internet by storm — but what exactly is it? And is there actually any benefit to what sounds like a pretty dangerous concept?

The content (and the intention) of a BORG is pretty simple. In making a BORG, you start with a gallon of water and pour out half of it. Then, add as much alcohol as you want (typically, anywhere from a third of a handle to a full handle), liquid IV and some kind of flavoring (like MiO, powdered lemonade or juice packets like Crystal Light). You mix it all together, and boom. You have your BORG!

It's supposed to be a way of drinking excessively for the desired effects of inebriation without causing any additional harm to your body. You stay hydrated enough that there's no hangover, and you're more conscious of how much you're drinking by going through one drink instead of potentially losing track of multiple. You're also keeping everything you're drinking in a closed container that stays with you all night. 

Anecdotally, BORGs also commonly have fun names, which is not only a good bit of silly fun for any pun enthusiast such as myself but also a good identification tactic for ensuring you keep track of your specific drink in a sea of gallons with you and your friends.

All these names have BORG incorporated into them somehow — I've seen Ruth Bader GinsBORG, Certified Lover BORG, BORG Time Rush, Mark ZuckerBORG, Soulja BORG, the Battle of GettysBORG and more.

But I have to question whether the harm reduction claims of BORGs are actually true or if this is just a way for college students to make themselves feel better about participating in binge drinking culture.

While the latter is probably true, since it seems TikTok trends are overemphasizing how beneficial BORGs are, BORGs do indeed have the capacity to reduce harm. It's just probably not as much as people might like to think.

Mike Selik, an associate director at the National Harm Reduction Coalition, agrees. Binge drinking is especially common at colleges, even more so with underage drinkers, and it's important to develop ways to increase safety for those who are partaking.

There's no way to halt drinking on college campuses, even less for legal adults, so taking measures to ensure things happen in a safer way is an objective good.

And the BORG does hit several points of safety that are important for college students, like reducing the risk of drink tampering, promoting hydration and ensuring students know how much they're drinking.

But it's not all good. 

"I don't think we can say anything is a best practice for a new trend, particularly a trend named 'blackout rage gallon (BORG),'" said Selik. "Many young people are not using BORGs to stay safe, but are rather using them to get very drunk."

Selick continues by adding that the amount of alcohol — the aforementioned third of a handle to full handle — is harmful when consumed quickly by a single individual and could lead to alcohol poisoning even with the knowledge of how much is in your container and the benefits of the hydration. 

Making a smaller BORG or one with more water and less liquor could be a great way to get drunk, participate in a fun trend and reduce harm without the intense risk that comes with some of the recipes on TikTok.

You could also split a BORG with a trusted friend or pace yourself and let some of that delicious BORG juice be dumped out at the end of the day. Just because the gallon is in front of you doesn't mean you have to finish it. 

All in all, the BORG trend is a mixed bag. While a great opportunity for people to flex their pun muscles and have safer, more fun drinking than they would ordinarily do at a dage, binge drinking is not and never will be safe.

BORGs, in their current form, promote excessive drinking. But by adapting the BORG to suit your needs and limits with drinking, it can be a great way to turn up without things turning down a dark path. 

So, please: Remember to drink responsibly, and don't blindly follow every internet trend. Harm reduction techniques are just that: harm reduction.

But if next time you head to a house party and want to ensure you can drink and stay safe (or at least safer), consider taking some of the good aspects of the BORG trend and applying them to how you drink. Prioritizing hydration and keeping your drink safe is always beneficial, regardless of how much you drink. Happy BORGing!  

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