What Is a Borg? Here’s the Good, Bad, and Ugly of the College Drinking Trend

College students are posting TikToks showing them drinking alcohol out of gallon jugs known as 'borgs.' BestColleges connected with a student-health expert to learn about the potential health implications of the trend.
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  • Borg is an acronym for "blackout rage gallon," a gallon jug filled with a mix of alcohol (often vodka) and flavored water.
  • Students are using pop culture puns to name the jugs and TikToking their use of borgs at parties.
  • BestColleges spoke with Dr. Jill Grimes about the drinking trend to learn some of the positives and negatives.

To borg or not to borg? It's a question many college students have contemplated this year, and now student-health experts are weighing in as well.

Borgs — an acronym for "blackout rage gallons" — are gallon-sized jugs filled with a mix of alcohol (often vodka) and flavored water with electrolytes to help prevent a hangover.

@bellaaalonzo How to make a BORG that actually tastes good (heart attack in a jug) happy snow day! #snowday #darty #borg #celsiuslivefit #utaustin #atx ♬ original sound - 🔔uh

This academic year, college students are showing themselves carrying their borgs at parties all over social media. They often name their jugs with pop culture puns, such as "Borg to Be Wild," "LeBorg James," and "Legally Borg."

While the acronym connotes the inherent dangers of binge drinking, and underage drinking is a massive concern, borgs are also earning some praise for their potential to improve individual harm reduction.

BestColleges spoke to Dr. Jill Grimes, a board-certified family physician and author of "The Ultimate College Student Health Handbook," to learn more about the drinking trend and how students can stay safe while having fun.

Borgs Can Put College Students in Control of What They Drink

The main benefit of borgs is that users can control the amount of alcohol they are going to consume, Grimes said.

While some students will choose to add more alcohol than others, borgs lift peer pressure off those who want to drink less or not drink alcohol at all, she said.

"I find a lot of students have a great deal of social anxiety and feel a lot of peer pressure, and they're always trying to come up with ways [so] that people will stop offering them stuff," Grimes said. "So I think being able to have your borg in your hand is a good social deterrent for people that need that or want that."

Borgs have the potential to slow the consumption of alcohol compared to other drinking methods, allowing the body to process the alcohol, she added.

"One of the biggest problems with shots (of alcohol) is it takes literally two seconds to drink one," she said. "At least with the bigger volume, you're slowing down the rate of consumption."

Another benefit to students using this single-use drinking vessel: They can protect their drink from being spiked, Grimes said.

Consuming Too Much Alcohol Is a Recipe for Disaster

Despite the limited positives of the drinking trend, Grimes cautions students against drinking too much alcohol, which can lead to alcohol toxicity and even blacking out.

Many recipes for borgs found on social media call for a fifth of liquor (750 ml or one-fifth of a gallon), which is equivalent to 17 shots.

It's a volume of alcohol that is a recipe for disaster, as shown by a March 4 incident at off-campus borg parties at the University of Massachusetts (UMass). Students suffering from alcohol intoxication required 28 ambulances, according to the Associated Press. UMass officials said it was the first time the school had seen such a widespread use of borgs at an off-campus party.

Grimes wants college students to understand that alcohol blackouts are often more dangerous than they think.

"Blacked out does not mean 'passed out.' Passed out is unconscious, and that's alcohol toxicity — which is very dangerous and can be life-threatening," said Grimes.

"Blackout means that you drink too much alcohol too fast, so your blood alcohol level rises really fast. It actually shuts off your hippocampus in your brain and you stop creating long-term memories," she said. "So the next day you literally have a gap in your memory … you're never gonna get those memories back because you weren't creating and storing long-term memories."

Grimes also suggests avoiding flavorings in borgs that include caffeine — which can conceal the effects of alcohol.

"The biggest issue with caffeine is that it's a stimulant, and like any stimulant, it blunts your response to alcohol," she said. "So, you might have three or even four drinks and not feel it, meaning that you feel mentally alert, but your blood alcohol level is still rising [and] it's still going to cause the other problems that alcohol causes," she said.

Raising Awareness of Harm Reduction

Drinking is a major issue on college campuses, federal data show.

The most recent Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration survey on alcohol use by college students found almost 53% of full-time college students ages 18 to 22 drank alcohol in the past month and about 33% engaged in binge drinking, defined as consuming five drinks or more on one occasion, during that same time frame.

College students and alcohol can be a deadly combination: An estimated 1,500 college students die from alcohol-related unintentional injuries, including automobile accidents, every year, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

Grimes told BestColleges that most people, including college students, don't know how much alcohol they can drink, so she TikToked her thoughts on borgs to help inform her 40,000 followers. The video, in which Grimes holds a prop borg named, "To Borg or Not to Borg?" got over 1 million views and hundreds of thousands of likes.

@tiktok.collegedoc What I love & hate about BORGs!#collegedoc #doctorsoftiktok #BORG #blackoutdrinking #alcoholrisks #blackoutragegallon #fyp #doctorthoughts #collegelife #collegedrinking ♬ original sound - Jill Grimes, MD

"I wanted to start a conversation about it and to stop normalizing [blacking out]," Grimes said. "If 100% of your peers are drinking to excess to even blackout drinking, meaning that they have memory loss the next day, it's hard for you to believe that that (excess drinking) isn't just normal. It's all fun and games until, frankly, someone is seriously injured or dies, which is just a horrific tragedy."

Her message seems to be taking hold.

One TikTok commenter wrote, "Thanks for acknowledging the positives of BORGs."

Another commented: "Extra bonus, if you don't want to drink you don't have to feel pressured to, you can make a non-alc (sic) one."

However, some viewers took a different message from her video, with several accounts commenting that the "positives outweigh the negatives" when it comes to borgs.

"Obviously, there's going to be a ton of people who are just going to comment 'Blackout or back out' or comments like that, which are a rallying cry for more drinking, and I understand that's a risk when I talk about it," Grimes said. "But at least I'm talking about it and trying to address those risks … I just think that education is important."