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Binge Drinking

BORG Drinking: What’s in the Jug?

June 12, 2023
14 min read
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Reframe Content Team
A team of researchers and psychologists who specialize in behavioral health and neuroscience. This group collaborates to produce insightful and evidence-based content.
June 12, 2023
14 min read
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Certified recovery coach specialized in helping everyone redefine their relationship with alcohol. His approach in coaching focuses on habit formation and addressing the stress in our lives.
June 12, 2023
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Recognized by Fortune and Fast Company as a top innovator shaping the future of health and known for his pivotal role in helping individuals change their relationship with alcohol.
June 12, 2023
14 min read
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Reframe Content Team
June 12, 2023
14 min read

First things first — what does BORG stand for? The term "blackout rage gallon" — BORG — refers to yet another excessive drinking trend that’s hit college campuses. The idea is to consume a gallon of an alcoholic beverage — often a mix of different types — with the intent to drink to the point of blacking out. Even though not everyone’s intentions are to literally drink to the point of temporary amnesia, binge drinking of any kind can be extremely dangerous and unpredictable.

Despite its risky nature, BORG drinking is mistakenly considered by some to be a “healthier” form of binge drinking, since the alcohol is mixed with a large amount of water and flavored electrolyte powders. However, binge drinking is still binge drinking — and the health and safety risks associated with it cannot be overstated.

What Is Binge Drinking?

Before we proceed, let's define binge drinking — the type of drinking that leads to blackouts and has been notorious for its presence on college campuses way before the days of BORG. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, binge drinking is defined as consuming five or more drinks for men or four or more drinks for women on a single occasion, typically within about 2 hours. Shocking as it may sound, one in six U.S. adults binge drinks about four times a month.

Regular binge drinking can have profound effects on our health. It increases the risk of chronic diseases, such as liver disease, cardiovascular disease, and several types of cancer. Moreover, it can lead to a troubling pattern of alcohol dependence.

A study published in the Journal of Addiction Medicine found that binge drinking changes alcohol's effects on the brain and can drive alcohol consumption that leads to dependence. Over time, the brain starts to interpret drinking as a reward, prompting a repeated pattern of excessive alcohol use.

What Are Blackouts?

Blackouts are the infamous fallout of binge drinking. A "blackout" refers to a period of amnesia during alcohol intoxication in which a person is unable to recall details or even entire events that occurred while they were drinking. Essentially, it's a gap in memory that can't be filled by normal recall or by prompting with clues.

Blackouts are a sign of excessive alcohol consumption. They occur when the blood alcohol concentration — BAC — rises rapidly, typically reaching at least 0.15%, which is almost twice the legal limit for driving in many jurisdictions. A person does not have to pass out or become unconscious to have a blackout, despite the common misconception.

Blackouts are particularly concerning because individuals in this state often appear functional and may engage in behaviors such as conversing or driving a vehicle. However, their decision-making capabilities and impulse control are heavily impaired.

The primary and most immediate risk with blackout drinking is alcohol poisoning, which can be deadly. When we drink alcohol in large amounts, especially within a short period of time, our bodies may be unable to process the toxin fast enough. This can lead to dangerous consequences, including slowed or irregular breathing, seizures, hypothermia, vomiting, and unconsciousness.

Another major concern is the risk of accidents and injuries. Blackouts can lead to a loss of motor control, making it more likely for individuals to hurt themselves or others. They may also engage in risky behaviors they would not ordinarily do, such as engaging in unsafe sex or driving under the influence.

Diagram about the lowdown on blackouts

BORG in the News, and What Is a BORG Challenge?

In the last few months, officials have reported an increased number of alcohol intoxication incidents due to off-campus student gatherings. They have also noted a new trend – many students have been seen carrying plastic gallon containers known as "BORGs" (an abbreviation for "black out rage gallons"). What is a BORG? If you’re wondering how to make a BORG, the BORG recipe is pretty simple. These containers often hold a mixture of alcohol, electrolyte flavoring mixtures, such as Liquid IV, and water. How much alcohol is in a typical BORG? It varies, but many hold as much as a fifth of vodka or other hard liquor – the equivalent of about 750 milliliters, or 25.4 fluid ounces, of liquor, amounting to around 17 shots.

This binge drinking trend — increasingly popular on TikTok — has been sweeping through college campuses nationwide. The concept took off during the pandemic as  a way to limit the spread of COVID, since they are not intended to be shared – in contrast to the notorious kegs or “jungle juice” containers of pre-pandemic days.

And what is a BORG challenge? Just what it sounds like. A BORG challenge, often seen as a badge of honor or a rite of passage, describes the binge drinking challenges, dares, or “games” involving BORGs that have landed many college students in the emergency room in the last couple of years. For example, University of Massachusetts officials have noticed significant use of BORGs at their institution. As a result, they are planning new strategies to enhance alcohol education and intervention. They also intend to communicate further with students and families about the issue. Currently, all new students are required to take a course named AlcoholEdu, which educates them about standard drink sizes and the physiological and medical risks of binge drinking.

A Dangerous Trend

As assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Dr. Sarah Andrews, told The New York Times, the trend “[is] promoting false ideas about drinking … Just because you know what is in it doesn’t mean that you truly understand the negative effects it could have. Even if it’s mixed with electrolytes, it doesn’t offset the alcohol content. It doesn’t offset the dangerousness of the alcohol.”

Moreover, the very nature of the BORG containers is conducive to binge drinking. Nobody wants to lug around a heavy jug all night long, so there’s an incentive to ease the load by chugging some of the contents sooner rather than later. Moreover, the wide-mouth opening of the jug makes it easier to drink large quantities of the mixture very quickly.

Finally, the flavor enhancers — which often contain caffeine — can pose an additional risk. One of the most popular choices are squeezable MiO Energy bottles, which contain anywhere from 600 to 1,440 milligrams of caffeine — the equivalent of 10 to 24 60-milligram servings. Adding a whole MiO bottle to the BORG jug can pose a significant risk of a caffeine overdose. 

What You Can Do

Now that we’ve answered the question, “What is a BORG?” it's essential to recognize the seriousness of this trend and actively discourage participation in such harmful behaviors. If you or someone you know is caught up in these types of dangerous activities, consider the following:

  • Educate students about the dangers of blackout drinking. Make sure they understand the severe health risks associated with blackout drinking. Excessive alcohol consumption blocks the creation of new memories, and it can also cause liver damage and alcohol poisoning. Beyond the physiological effects, blackout drinking increases the likelihood of engaging in risky activities, like unprotected sex, drunk driving, or violence.
  • Tell them about the dangers of overdosing on caffeine. Explain that a caffeine overdose is also no joke — it can lead to a host of dangerous symptoms, ranging from dizziness, diarrhea, increased thirst, insomnia, headache, fever, irritability chest pain, irregular heartbeat, muscle spasms, trouble breathing, hallucinations, and convulsions.
  • Warn about the dangers of dehydration. Even if the BORG jugs contain a large amount of water, consuming it can still lead to dehydration. Insufficient water intake can lead to fatigue, headaches, kidney stones, or even heat stroke. Extreme dehydration may cause low blood pressure, rapid heartbeat, and, in severe cases, delirium or unconsciousness. 
  • Acknowledge good intentions. Following the BORG trend might very well be an attempt to drink in a “safer” way. The intention to avoid spreading disease while keeping one’s drink safe from possible tampering is a great start — it shows the desire to lead a healthy lifestyle. Unfortunately, in this case, these precautions are not enough.
  • Offer support. Encourage students to seek professional help if they're struggling with alcohol use. Provide a supportive environment, and let them know that you’re not going to judge them, but are eager to help. 
  • Provide alternatives. Suggest non-alcohol-related activities and social events as safer, healthier options. There are many fun mocktails available these days — refreshing virgin mojitos, tangy raspberry lemonade, or exotic alcohol-free piña coladas provide a pleasant taste without the alcohol content. Smoothies, infused waters, and non-alcoholic craft beers are also delicious options. 

Remember, it's okay to say no to these dangerous trends. Prioritize your health and safety — no challenge or trend is worth risking your life.

Wrapping Up

Understanding and navigating the landscape of alcohol use can be a challenge, especially with the rise of dangerous drinking trends. But with the right information and support, we can make healthier choices and help others do the same.

Remember, you're not alone in this journey. Whether you're looking to cut back on or quit alcohol altogether, there's a myriad of resources and support networks available to help you take that next step.

Here's to making smarter decisions, creating healthier habits, and enjoying life to the fullest.

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