Alcohol is loved for the way it makes people feel (before the next morning, of course). It makes people more sociably, carefree, easygoing, and uninhibited. If taken responsibly, a drink or two can be the perfect mood setter for a get-together of friends or date.

In 2004, surprising research started to come out about alcohol's ability to "sharpen the mind." Research published by academics at University College London found that those who even drink only one glass of wine a week have significantly sharper thought processes than those who do not.

However, the researchers were unable to test the effect of higher levels of alcohol consumption, saying that drunkenness probably negates any positive effects on the brain.

Memory

A drink can bring stress-relief at the end of a hard day and be a social tonic, but alcohol can have an even deeper, more dangerous effect on the mind.

According to a study in Alcohol Research and Health, "if recreational drugs were tools, alcohol would be a sledgehammer." Researchers found that alcohol interferes with the ability form new long-term memories, presenting detectable memory impairments after just on or two drinks.

Probably the most common form of memory loss in drinkers is a blackout. Blackouts are episodes of amnesia, during which people can participate in menial, active and emotionally-charged events, and later not remember what they did. This usually occurs after drinking large quantities of alcohol or gulping drinks and drinking on an empty stomach, both actions which lead to a rapid rise in blood alcohol content.

According to a survey of 772 undergraduates published in Alcohol Research and Health, 51 percent of students admitted to experiencing blackouts, 40 percent within the past year. The study also determined that women are at a greater risk than men of experiencing blackouts.

Alcohol affects memory by disrupting the hippocampus, a part of the brain crucial to memory and navigation. Researchers believe it also negatively affects the frontal lobes of the brain, but do not have enough research yet to form conclusions.

Mood

Because alcohol is a depressant, it will have a greater effect on mood when a person is stressed or depressed. Alcohol will initially make people feel happy and more relaxed, but it can ultimately increase anxiety and cause mood swings.In the end, consuming alcohol for mood benefits can actually increase the severity of the symproms of stress, anxiety and depression and lead to the consumption of even higher and higher amounts of alcohol in order to sustain its effects.

The overall effect of alcohol on the mind and behavior is an important fact that should be considered in an individual's decision to drink. When you do drink, make sure you are surrounded by people that you trust and not in a potentially dangerous situation. Always remember that anything can happen, and you have to be prepared to take care of yourself and those around you. Know your personal limits and drink responsibly so that everyone can enjoy the benefits of drinking alcohol together.