Many university students enjoy having a few alcoholic drinks with their friends, especially at the weekend when lectures are over. If people drink too much, however, this can cause them to become ill. At least, excessive drinking can cause hangovers but at its worst binge drinking can cause serious health issues such as breathing problems, seizures, and brain damage, according to the UK’s leading alcohol charity Drink Aware, as well as making the drinker more vulnerable.
There is, however, now a drinking game which is trending on popular social media site TikTok which is said to be encouraging binge drinking called BORG. Videos with the hashtag #Borg have amassed over 83 million views at the time of writing, and the number is continuing to grow. But, taking part in the game has now led to dozens of young people being taken to hospital. Just what is the BORG trend and what happened to the students who needed medical care? Here’s what you need to know.
What is the BORG TikTok trend?
BORG is short for “blackout rage gallon”. As the name suggests, it involves a person mixing a half-gallon of water with a half-gallon of alcohol, typically vodka, with an electrolyte flavour enhancer and then drinking it. It is believed that it has become popular because people believe that the electrolyte helps to keep them hydrated, but also allows them to drink a large quantity of alcohol without feeling drunk because it is diluted with water. Borg is the name given to large plastic jug that people fill with this drink mixture, but the size of these jugs lead to binge drinking which can be dangerous.
Have people been hospitalised because of the BORG challenge?
It seems that the BORG drinking game is particularly popular with university students in the United States. Earlier this month, the New York Post reported that dozens of young people were taken to hospital after partaking in the game. A total of 28 ambulances reportedly had to be called to a local college as students fell ill after they took part in what’s known as an annual St. Patrick’s Day celebration called Blarney Blowout.
Officials at the University of Massachusetts Amherst announced on Saturday 4 March that the Amherst fire department handled 28 ambulances linked to “a significant number of alcohol intoxication cases”. They also confirmed that none of the cases were life threatening. The statement continued and said “many students were observed carrying plastic gallon containers, believed to be "borgs".
The statement also goes on to link social media site TikTok specifically to the game and officials said they will do what they can to improve education around alcohol and safe drinking practices for students. It states: “In recent weeks, this binge drinking trend has been increasingly depicted on TikTok and seen on college campuses across the country. UMass officials said this is the first time the university has observed notable use of borgs. They will assess this weekend’s developments and consider steps to improve alcohol education and intervention, and communicate with students and families. Currently, all incoming students participate in required education called Alcohol.edu which includes information about the size of standard drinks, and physiological and medical risks of binge drinking.”
Is the BORG trend dangerous?
The BORG drinking game encourages people to binge drink, and this can be dangerous. Drink Aware reports that getting drunk can harm people’s physical and mental health in numerous ways including:
Accidents and falls - Drink Aware states that these are common because being drunk affects your balance and coordination, and you could injure yourself when you fall. In extreme cases, you could even die.
Breathing risk - Overdosing on alcohol can stop you breathing, or even stop your heart, according to Drink Aware and there’s also a risk you could choke on your own vomit.
Mood and memory - Binge drinking can affect your mood and cause you to forget things that have happened, and, in the longer term, can lead to serious mental health problems, says Drink Aware.
Long-term health issues - Drink Aware state there is evidence that binge drinking increases your risk of long-term health problems including becoming dependent on alcohol, alcohol-related cancer and heart disease
Alcohol poisoning - Both men and women are at risk from alcohol poisoning from drinking. It can reduce your body temperature, which increases the risk of hypothermia, cause vomiting, which causes a risk of choking, lead to a heart attack or a fit, or cause someone to stop breathing.
Diluting the alcohol with water, a characteristic of the BORG trend, may also be problematic if this causes people to falsely believe the alcohol will not have the same impact on them and this somehow makes the amount of alcohol they are consuming safer. As national drugs and alcohol helpline Talk To Frank states: “Alcoholic drinks are often mixed with non-alcoholic drinks, such as fruit juice, tonic water or lemonade, to give different flavours. This means there is more liquid in the drink but doesn’t reduce the amount of alcohol in the whole drink. So whether you drink a unit of vodka on its own or with 25cl of lemonade, you are still drinking a unit of vodka.”