The University of Massachusetts has issued a warning against a new drinking fad that has gone viral on TikTok after at least 28 ambulances were called in response to student intoxication.
The new trend is “borgs,” short for “blackout rage gallons,” which are a mix of liquor, electrolyte packets and water dispensed from gallon jugs.
“The Amherst Fire Department (AFD) said they handled requests for 28 ambulance transports, prompting mutual aid and a task force activation for additional resources,” the university said in a statement last week. “AFD said none of the cases were life threatening. Students gathered in a number of locations in town and joint planning minimized large-scale disturbances. Amherst Police and UMass Police reported two arrests for underage possession of alcohol and responded to numerous calls for service.”
The borg trend has gone viral as a less expensive way to make drinks at home, with drinkers often writing comedic messages and puns like “Borger King” or “Borgan Wallen” on their jugs.
The #borg hashtag has amassed over 84 million views on TikTok.
UMass officials said that this is the first time the university has seen widespread use of borgs at off-campus parties and that it is looking for ways to curtail their use in the future. The school also says it will “consider steps to improve alcohol education and intervention, and communicate with students and families.”
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George F. Koob, the director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism at the National Institutes of Health, said during an interview with “Good Morning America” that the borg trend can easily lead to students drinking too much.
“Unless you’re the one that mixed the borg and you know exactly how much alcohol you’re dispensing, it’s probably easy to overdo it,” Koob said. “The flavorant can mask some of the effects of alcohol, and caffeine itself can mask some of the effects of alcohol, so sometimes then you don’t even know or realize how much you’ve been drinking.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 25% of U.S. adults engage in binge drinking at least weekly and that binge drinking is responsible for over 40% of the deaths due to excessive alcohol use in the country. The CDC defines binge drinking as consuming four or more drinks on a single occasion for a woman, or at least five drinks on a single occasion for a man.
Last week, many UMass students attended gatherings for “Blarney Blowout,” an annual pre-St. Patrick’s Day holiday that typically features lots of drinking. Dozens of borg-related calls for medical assistance occurred during those festivities, according to a report from the Boston Globe.
The borg trend has gained steam a few weeks before St. Patrick’s Day, a popular drinking holiday across the U.S. and particularly in the Boston area.