Getting Answers: dangers of ‘borgs’ after ‘Blarney Blowout’ hospitalizations

Dozens of college students were transported to the hospital over the weekend due to excessive drinking in Amherst during the annual ‘Blarney Blowout,’ a popular
Published: Mar. 6, 2023 at 3:21 PM EST|Updated: Mar. 6, 2023 at 5:16 PM EST
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AMHERST, MA (WGGB/WSHM) - Dozens of college students were transported to the hospital over the weekend due to excessive drinking in Amherst during the annual ‘Blarney Blowout,’ a popular off-campus party this time of year.

“It was a traditional event as we’re used to having them from the police side of things and we were well prepared for that. What was unusual this year was the number of ambulance calls. which really taxed the town of Amherst,” said Amherst Town Manager Paul Bockelman.

The big off-campus party weekend in Amherst led to dozens of college students being transported by ambulances due to excessive drinking.

“Normally, it’s not a medical event. It’s more of a crowd control event. This turned out to be a lot of people alcohol-related transports to Cooley Dickinson Hospital, which was a big burden on them as well,” Bockelman explained.

Bockelman told Western Mass News that the Amherst Fire Department responded to 38 ambulance calls on Saturday which, he said, is a significantly higher number than previous ‘Blarney Blowout’ weekends.

The event is not connected to UMass Amherst, but university leaders said many students were seen carrying plastic gallon containers, believed to be ‘borgs,’ which is the latest Tiktok trend known as a “blackout rage gallons.”

“Someone takes a gallon of water, dumps some of that water, and replaces it with hard alcohol, usually on the lines of a fifth of hard alcohol. Then what they do is replace for flavor, sometimes electrolytes or other powder flavor. Sometimes, it contains caffeine and people walk around with this gallon,” said Dr. Bill Soares, director of harm reduction services in the Department of Emergency Medicine at Baystate Medical Center.

Western Mass News brought questions to Soares about this latest drinking trend, which is something college students across the country have been participating in since last year.

“This is a way to potentially control how much someone drinks and while that’s true, when you’re talking about a fifth of alcohol, that’s about 16 shots and so we know that 16 shots, depending on how quickly it’s taken, that can almost be lethal for someone,” Soares added.

He also shared another misconception about this trend he wants college students to be aware of.

“If they put in caffeine or electrolytes, it makes it counteract the alcohol and that’s not true at all. Nothing about caffeine or electrolytes changes the body’s metabolism with relation to alcohol, so you’re still going to get an alcohol level that’s very high that could lead to coma or difficult breathing or even death,” Soares explained.

In looking into the rest of the semester, Bockleman added, “It happens every year, but it happens in the spring. There’s lots of spring parties that happen. Those are within our capacity to handle them, but this was a warning flag for us for what’s coming forward in the spring.”

We did reach out to UMass Amherst for comment on Monday, but we have not yet heard back. However, Bockelman told us he expects to be meeting with university leaders this week to discuss this past weekend’s events.