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What is BORG drinking, and why is it a dangerous trend? An expert explains

If you’ve been to a party lately and haven’t seen someone drinking a BORG, you’re likely not partying with college students.

And if you have no idea what that sentence even means, you’re probably not a member of Generation Z.

The acronym BORG stands for “blackout rage gallon,” according to the National Capital Poison Center in Washington, DC. The term refers to a concoction often prepared in a gallon-size plastic jug that typically contains vodka or other distilled alcohol, water, a flavour enhancer and an electrolyte powder or drink. BORGs are often drunk at outside day parties, otherwise known as darties.

The new version of jungle juice

There’s so much alcohol in a BORG that “drinking one can lead to potentially life-threatening consumption and alcohol poisoning,” said Dr. Anna Lembke, a professor of psychiatry and addiction medicine at Stanford University in California.

The large-batch drink is the new version of jungle juice, according to Sabrina Grimaldi, the creator and editor-in-chief of online lifestyle magazine The Zillennial Zine. The publication targets the micro-generation between millennials and Gen Z.

“Instead of making a party-sized mixed drink in a huge 5-gallon drink dispenser, a giant storage tub, or even the grossest trend, which was making jungle juice in a sink or bathtub, everyone has their own personal drink,” Grimaldi wrote CNN in an email. As the drink’s name suggests, “it’s intended to get you extremely drunk.”

What Lembke calls the BORG’s “social contagion factor” makes it even more dangerous.

“Kids see other kids doing it and want to try it themselves,” she said. “That’s another real danger here — to take a dangerous deviant behavior and normalize it by spreading it on social media.”

Gen Z binge drinking

Grimaldi, who is 24, first heard about BORGs earlier this year when her editorial intern, Kelly Xiong, 21, pitched her a story on the topic of why they are so popular among Gen Zers.

“I graduated college in 2020 so it’s safe to say I haven’t been a part of the college party scene in almost 5 years (especially because of the pandemic),” Grimaldi said. “Even though Kelly and I are so close in age, it’s crazy how these microtrends pop up.”

Xiong, who just graduated from the University of Pittsburgh, first learned about BORGs during her sophomore year at college.

“It was during a St. Patrick’s Day block darty, and almost everyone had their own BORG,” she told CNN via email, adding that the drink is particularly popular at big outdoor day parties or “special occasion darties.”

While the origins of the term are difficult to trace, BORGs have made headlines, including in March 2023 when more than two dozen University of Massachusetts Amherst students, many of whom were believed to be carrying BORGS, were carried away by ambulance following an off-campus event.

High school students are drinking BORGs

The trend is not limited to the college demographic.

At the high school senior class pool party last year and this year, “everyone made their own BORG,” said Virginia, 18, a senior at a private high school in Tampa, Florida, who didn’t want her real name used to protect her privacy.

Virginia said one of the reasons BORGs appeal to her is the social aspect. “You have to name your BORG and get creative by writing the name on it with a Sharpie,” she said.

BORG posts starring gallon jugs with punny names such as Captain Borgan, Our Borg and Savior, Borgan Donor and Borgan Wallen proliferate on TikTok.

Thinking along those lines is part of what makes BORGs potentially dangerous to the people turning to them as a party drink, Lembke said.

Virginia said she recognizes the dangers of drinking BORGs. “A lot of people just pour vodka in and don’t measure it, so it can actually be kind of dangerous as opposed to knowing you drank three cans of beer,” she said. “Nobody is really rationing how much they’re going to drink.”

That’s true even if the person is 21, the legal age to drink in the United States, or older.

A standard drink in the U.S. contains 1 to 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits, 5 ounces of wine or 12 ounces of beer, according to the National Institutes of Health. For females, drinking more than four standard drinks (and for males, more than five) over a two-hour time frame is considered a binge, according to the NIH.

“A BORG often contains a fifth (25.6 fluid ounces or 3.2 cups) of vodka or other hard alcohol, which is about 17 standard drinks, which is a massive amount of alcohol,” Lembke said.

No amount of alcohol is good for you

It’s actually best not to drink alcohol at all, as a number of recent studies have found that no amount of drinking is healthy. The World Heart Federation published a policy brief in 2022 saying there is “no level of alcohol consumption that is safe for health.”

If you do drink, health experts encourage moderation. That’s no more than 3 ounces of alcohol for women or four ounces for men over the course of a day, according to the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Lembke also recommended not making a regular habit of it.

The liver processes about 1 ounce of alcohol per hour, or roughly one standard drink per hour, Lembke said. Depending on the alcohol quantity in the mix, drinking a BORG “totally overwhelms the capacity of the liver to metabolize it,” especially for somebody who’s not already tolerant to alcohol, Lembke said.

The fact that BORGS are usually sweetened with a diluting agent such as electrolyte drinks or water flavour enhancers only makes them more dangerous, she said.

“It makes it more palatable, and people generally can drink more than they could of something like straight vodka,” she said. “But that doesn’t increase the liver’s ability to metabolize alcohol better.”

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