It’s called the BORG, which stands for “blackout rage gallon.” It’s the latest college alcohol drinking trend. And when you think of alcohol drinking and the words “blackout”, “rage”, and “gallon,” the phrase “in moderation” may not be the first thing that comes to mind. Nevertheless, this trend has, surprise, surprise, gone viral on TikTok with the hashtag #borg getting over 74.7 million views.
Yep, people have been showing their jugs on TikTok videos, meaning gallon-sized jugs filled with a mixture of water, alcohol, sweeteners, and electrolyte solutions like Pedialyte. They’ve even written various BORG names on their jugs. For example, this TikTok video showed one BORG named “Brown vs. the BORG of Education” and another bearing “Ron BORGandy” in some very punny ways:
So why are so many seemingly all-a-BORG with this trend? Is this just another way for folks to get more alcohol into their bodies faster? Well, the claim is that this is a safer way to drink alcohol. The belief is that the water and the electrolyte solution would dilute the alcohol and thus might slow the rate at which your gastrointestinal tract absorbs the alcohol. Those doing the BORG also hope that the water and electrolytes will also reduce your risk of a subsequent hangover the next day when the “what have I done” moment comes. So is this truly the case? Are such claims BORG out of science, so to speak?
Well, Madison Malone Kircher reporting for the New York Timesdid quote a 21-year-old junior at the University of Louisville as saying, “When I compare BORGs to butt-chugging, it doesn’t seem as bad.” That’s not exactly saying much because a lot of things are not as bad as butt chugging. When you are not happy in your job, your relationship, or life in general, you’re probably not going to rationalize your situation with, “Well, at least it’s not as bad as butt chugging.” If you’ve never heard of butt chugging, it’s the same as “boofing,” a term that came up during the 2018 Senate confirmation hearings for then Supreme Court-nominee Brett Kavanaugh, as I covered for Forbes back then. In the end, the boofing discussion didn’t seem to impede Kavanaugh’s confirmation. But I digress.
Back to the BORG identity. It’s not as if BORG drinking in and of itself will make college drinking safer. The extra water and electrolyte solution alone won’t serve as a vaccine against binge drinking. Just look at what happened on November 4. That’s when a total of 46 University of Massachusetts Amherst students ended up being hospitalized after a BORG drinking challenge during their annual off-campus Blarney Blowout, according to Simrin Singh reporting for CBS News. This entailed the mass mobilization of resources including 28 ambulances in not only Amherst but also neighboring towns, as indicated by a press release from the University. Although none of the cases turned out to life-threatening, the words “28 ambulances” and “everything’s cool” don’t tend to go together.
This BORGus episode showed that binge drinking is binge drinking no matter how “sweet” or “lyte” you try to make it. While diluting the alcohol and staying well hydrated can help to some degree, what matters most is the absolute amount of alcohol that you drink over time. Assuming that you are not doing something “butt chugging” and instead drinking alcohol through your mouth, alcoholic beverages should go quickly to your stomach. There your stomach absorbs about 20% of the alcohol, allowing much of the remaining 80% to be absorbed via your small intestine into your bloodstream. Unless you take an enema at the same time, which you could nickname “Enema of the State,” the extra water and electrolytes are not going to make that much more alcohol pass through your gastrointestinal tract unabsorbed.
Eventually, it’s your liver that gets most of the alcohol out of your body. Your liver is what metabolizes the alcohol, using enzymes to break it down. Typically this occurs at a rate of one ounce or the size of a standard drink per hour. One drink is equivalent to 12-ounces of standard beer, 1.5 ounces of 80 proof liquor, or 5 ounces of standard wine.
Drinking more than one drink per hour can overwhelm your liver’s enzymes so that alcohol remains in your bloodstream and rest of the body. In such cases, think of your liver as a check-out line on Black Friday. There’s going to be a back-up of alcohol in your blood stream and throughout your body. That’s when you come up with great ideas such as testing whether your head or the wall is stronger.
As you can imagine, it may be more difficult to regulate the amount of alcohol consumed when you’re doing so with a BORG. Whereas you may be able to more readily count how many beer bottles you’ve already had, it may not be quite as clear how much alcohol has been put in a BORG. It also may not be clear how the amount that you’ve drunk out of the jug may correlate with amount of alcohol that you’ve consumed, unless you are able to do some quick math, something that isn’t always feasible when you’ve drinking. There, may be a lot of “OK, ten percent times one fifth of the jug times, oh, [expletive] it. Let’s drink.” Plus, “gallon jugs” don’t usually conjure up the word “sip.” So, pouring the contents of the jug into your mouth could give you quite a significant amount of alcohol, depending on how much was mixed in there in the first place.
Moreover, any type of “home mixtures” in containers that aren’t properly prepared and sealed run the risk of contamination. You don’t know what others may be putting in such containers. Dirty hands handling your jugs could introduce bacteria and other nasty microbes. Folks may surreptitiously put more alcohol or even other types of drugs into the BORG.
Of course, as Eric Clapton once sang, it’s in the way that you do it. If you do take proper precautions while preparing and carrying a BORG and end up putting much less alcohol in the jug than you would with other drinking activities, then, yes, it could be a relatively safer way to partake in revelries. Ultimately, whatever you do should be BORG out of reasonable amount of caution and enough knowledge. Therefore, parents and educators should be aware of all the different possible drinking practices and proactively help students understand all of the science behind each of them. If you somehow believe that your kids will not be exposed to all sorts of drinking practices during college, then you’ve probably BORGotten what it was like when you were that age.