There is some evidence, however, that raising the drinking age might have actually worsened the teen binge-drinking problem. It’s easy to imagine why that might be the case: if drinking any amount of alcohol is illegal for 18-year-olds, those who want to drink anyway have every incentive to down as much booze a quickly as possible, thus minimizing the amount of time they could be caught by the cops holding a beer in their hands.
The drinking age also creates a black market in alcohol consumption for college kids, most of whom are under 21 but drink anyway—just as their great-grandparents did during Prohibition. Teenage college students can’t legally buy booze from the corner store or enjoy an afternoon or evening of casual drinking at the bar; instead, they have to seek out older students who are willing to give them alcohol. This means paying a visit to a friend-of-a-friend’s basement, or diving head-first into the house party circuit and imbibing from a tub of mystery liquid. Fraternities, in particular, often play the role of beer distributors to the underage crowd.
These environment are manifestly less safe for teen drinkers than drinking at home or at a bar. But they are where teens must turn, thanks to NMDAA.