Tip of the Month: When It Comes to BORGs, Know the Facts
We’re not talking about sci-fi robots here. You may have heard of BORGs (black-out rage gallons) on TikTok or seen headlines about college students making drink mixtures in gallon jugs. While bringing your own booze can be a harm reduction practice, in the case of BORGs, there are much more effective and safe ways to practice harm reduction when choosing to drink.
Are BORGs an Effective Harm Reduction Practice?
The truth is that it depends! Most BORGs contain way more alcohol than Stanford students drink on any given occasion and therefore can be more risky and not an effective harm reduction practice for the majority of our student population. Stanford students are already using far more effective risk reducing strategies and well over half of Stanford students have 0-4 drinks when they go out.
It may be true that BORGs are mixed with electrolyte powders and water for hydration, but those additional ingredients are doing little to mitigate the risks of drinking a BORG that is filled halfway with hard alcohol. Additionally, many BORG recipes include caffeinated mixtures along with alcohol. Mixing caffeine and alcohol can be risky and puts stress on the heart.
What do BORGs get right? It’s a good practice to ensure you know what you are drinking and to never drink out of communal bowls/vats of alcohol. Pouring your own drinks and measuring so you know how much you are having, and hydrating between alcoholic beverages are good practices- a SUPER cup can help you measure!
Be a critical consumer when you see new trends around substance use and choose harm reduction strategies that reduce risks based on where YOU fall on the spectrum of use.
One Size Does Not Fit All
Harm reduction strategies tend to be realistic and tangible approaches for reducing risks in our communities, yet these conversations are often overly simplified and reduced to a false binary- “either you drink or you don’t.” This negates the most important principle of harm reduction- harm reduction is a spectrum of strategies and it is relative to where you fall along the spectrum of substance use. What might be safe for one person if they drink, is not necessarily safe for another. Harm reduction will always be relative to the individual’s starting point.
Finding Your Sweet Spot
Assess where you are along the spectrum of alcohol use- Are you an abstainer? A casual drinker who has less than 3 drinks on any given night? Do you sometimes/always have more than 5 drinks in a night? Identify areas where you could reduce risk based on your personal starting point.
- properly measuring your drinks so you know how much you are drinking - use a SUPER cup!
- pouring your own drinks so you know exactly how much and what is in them
- setting a drink limit and not exceeding it
- alternating alcoholic beverages with water or other EANABs
- pacing your drinks in a way that spreads them out as much as possible
- leaving water by your bedside so you don’t forget to hydrate
- planning who is going to drive and ensuring they stay sober
Additional strategies if you are trying to cut back include:
- adding more ice to your drink to avoid chugging and to water it down
- sticking to lighter drinks with lower alcohol by volume (e.g. beer/seltzers instead of hard liquor)
- using your hydration strategy to support your pacing
Looking for support to create an individualized plan? Meet with a substance use educator at SUPER
Written by: Natalie Thomas, Assistant Dean of Students & Director of Education and Outreach, Office of Substance Use Programs, Education & Resources (SUPER) and Ralph Castro, Associate Dean of Students & Director, SUPER
- Want help coming up with that individualized plan? Sign up for a time with a substance use educator at SUPER.
- Harm Reduction Tools Program: Learn more about harm reduction and common strategies (SUPER Cups, Narcan, Fentanyl Testing Strips) to help you reduce risks today!
- Reduce Your Risk: Access guidance, strategies, and tools curated by SUPER to reduce risk. Learn about tolerance, short-term as well as long-term risks, drink counting, Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC), and more.
- Request a PEER led workshop: Learn from PEER educators about risk reducing strategies for alcohol use and bystander intervention basics.
- “SUPER Cups”- What are those? The Flourish, April 2022: In the Spotlight
- The National Harm Reduction Coalition: Learn more about the principles of harm reduction and how they are applied to substance use and beyond.