Does This Gen Z Binge Drinking Fad Deserve Its Harm-Reduction Rebrand?
While binge drinking has remained a staple of American college culture for years, day drinking in a backyard in 2023 might look very different from the college parties popularized by the 1973 hit film Animal House. Case in point: there is the BORG, the new Gen Z, gallon-sized binge drink sweeping (and surprising) a millennial side of TikTok.
Not to be confused with the Star Trek aliens of the same name, a BORG is a gallon jug filled with vodka, water, and caffeinated flavoring or electrolyte additives. They’re usually made by college students to bring to a full day of drinking, hence the meaning behind the acronym: “Black Out Rage Gallon.” While the drink has been a staple on state college campuses for at least two years, it’s reached newfound fame on TikTok in the last month, as millennials have discovered what Gen Z college students are lugging to their “darties” (a frat party that usually starts in the morning). Hashtags about the viral college drink have received almost 15 million views on TikTok, with former students cringing at the dangerous (and sometimes outright disgusting) concoctions they used to drink. But some millennials are taking the new invention a step further and arguing that the BORG is a solid Gen Z attempt at curbing some of the dangers of all-day drinking.
Dozens of millennials on TikTok have expressed envy over the popularity of the BORG, noting that the drink’s portability, personalization, and water content can leave college students safe from common dangers of binge drinking like dehydration, alcohol poisoning, and drinking out of open containers that could be drugged. Some have even said BORGs are a new example of harm reduction, a tool that can reduce the risk of drug and alcohol use, a very millennial way to market binge-drinking culture.
“Gen Z has evolved,” millennial TikTok creator Erin Monroe said in a stitch discussing the gallon jugs. Her video has been viewed more than 3 million times. “We were drinking gin buckets and jungle juice out of plastic containers and trash cans in the basement of frat houses. Gen Z said, ‘No. We want better for ourselves.’ Whether or not they realize that they’re doing it, this is actually really solid harm reduction. They’re deciding what they’re drinking. They’re keeping it in a closed container and they’re bringing it with them everywhere.” But Monroe also suggests BORGs could be safer if people make them with a few measured-out shots — rather than roughly half a bottle of vodka, which is often the case.
“I’m no longer worried about the future of our country,” one video endorsing BORGs reads. “Meanwhile i was scoopin juice out of communal frat bathtubs.”
On TikTok, videos of BORG recipes and their punny names (Borgasm, Spongeborg, Ruth Bader Gins-Borg, Curious Borg, Certified Lover Borg) have thousands of views as college students flaunt their massive rage gallons.
But do BORGs really make drinking safer? It’s well known that binge drinking is a popular aspect of American colleges and universities — as well as a major source of danger for the average college student. Frat parties and college ragers have long been staples of collegiate social scenes and fun additions to college-based films and television shows. But according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), almost 33 percent of full-time college students in 2022 admitted to regularly binge drinking. Each year, almost 2,000 college students die from “alcohol-related unintentional injuries,” and almost 700,000 college students are sexually assaulted by another student who has been drinking, according to the NIH. Major institutions across the country continue to struggle to make campuses safer for students, a mission that becomes difficult when dangerous aspects of drinking culture become popular or cool. Carrying around a vodka-filled gallon jug named after overdosing on alcohol might seem counterintuitive to safe partying, but even if it’s only a minor step in the right direction, creators like Monroe argue it’s still a step worth considering.
“If you pair this with some additional harm reduction like spacing and pacing your drinking, making sure you have a safe ride home and staying with trusted friends, you’re really on your way to doing something pretty solid, ” Monroe said.