Borg drinking fad has 'pros and cons,' counselor says
(NEXSTAR) – If you’ve been browsing TikTok over the past few weeks, you’ve likely come across videos of young adults drinking large homemade cocktails from their own individual plastic water jugs.
These drinks — called “borgs” — are usually made by mixing about a half-gallon of water with liquor (a fifth of vodka seems to be the most popular choice) and some sort of vitamin supplement or flavoring. Partygoers usually mix and bring their own borgs to tailgates, backyard parties, and other such places where openly drinking alcohol out of a jug appears to be at least somewhat tolerated.
“Most importantly, you have to name it,” one TikTok user said in an instructional video, while writing the words “LeBorg James” on her jug. “And so, basically, Gen Z just drinks this.”
The concept of a “borg” — which stands for “black-out rage gallon” — isn’t exactly new. Videos of students showing off their borgs have been circulating on social media since well before the 2022 holiday season. But the idea has gained more widespread attention as of late amid concerns over the tipsy trend.
One of the more major concerns is whether the fad is leading to an increase in binge-drinking. And it can, according to Amelia McCoun, a licensed professional counselor-associate with Texas Tech University’s Student Wellness department. But it also may cut down on other potential risks.
“I think there are pros and cons to using ‘borgs,’” said McCoun, who works with students suffering from depression, anxiety and substance abuse. “I think the difference maker is how an individual would make their particular borg.”
As McCoun noted, there’s no standard recipe for a borg, meaning it could potentially be made with as much liquor as a gallon-size jug can hold. Most online tutorials, however, call for around 750 milliliters — or around 17 shots worth — to be added to a half-gallon of water.
That said, consuming just a portion of such a borg (containing about four or five shots) could raise blood-alcohol concentration over 0.08% in just a few hours, and may qualify as binge-drinking, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism’s standards.
“As a person’s BAC increases, so do the risks of an alcohol overdose,” said McCoun, who pointed to the NIAAA’s thresholds.
“So based on this information, I think there’s a possibility that [drinking borgs] could increase the risk of binge drinking or alcohol overdosing,” she said. “But again, this would be based on how much alcohol a person put in their borg and how quickly they are drinking it.”
On the other hand, McCoun also pointed out several positive aspects of the trend, like how it helps prevent the exchange of saliva, bacteria and harmful viruses that would otherwise plague communal drinks. But most importantly, McCoun said borgs may allows for something called “harm reduction,” which is defined by the National Harm Reduction Coalition as “a set of practical strategies and ideas aimed at reducing negative consequences associated with drug use.”
Borgs, she said, could help with harm-reduction in a few different ways. For starters, most drinkers made and drink their own borgs, meaning they know what’s in it.
“If you went to a party and drank from the communal ‘jungle juice’ tub, and you weren’t part of the mixing process, you don’t really know what’s in your cup or how much alcohol you’re consuming … which could increase the chances of alcohol poisoning or hospitalizations due to alcohol consumption,” she said.
McCoun also pointed out that some party attendees may feel pressure to drink at gatherings with their peers. But with a borg, that person can put as little alcohol as they want inside their own personal jug — or even no alcohol at all — and no one would be the wiser.
“A counselor with an educational background in addiction disorders and recovery studies, I will always agree with the Harm Reduction model of any kind of substance use,” McCoun said. “A person or student may not be willing to abstain from drug or alcohol use, but if we can reduce the potential risk factors associated with substance use, that is always a win in my book.”
She warned, however, that harm-reduction strategies are only good for reducing harm, and can’t remove the risks of drug or alcohol use altogether.
McCoun also pushed back at the notion that borgs are somehow more hydrating than consuming water between traditional cocktails or alcoholic beverages, as some younger drinkers have suggested online.
Meanwhile, health agencies including the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have stressed that no amount of alcohol is “safe” for a person’s health, as it creates dependencies, impairs judgement, and can lead injuries (both fatal and non-fatal), risky behavior, and even certain forms of cancer. The only way to reduce all possible risk, they say, is to refrain from drinking altogether.
Becoming educated on the dangers, McCoun believes, is a close second.
“We need to continue to educate our students on the dangers of substance and alcohol use and limit potential risks associated with substance and alcohol use,” she told Nexstar. “If a student came into my office and they were using borgs, I would tell them the exact same thing I’m saying to you.”