Emile Hirsch is a widely acclaimed and deeply praised actor, who even at a young age took on a wide variety of rolls showing a enormous emotional range, including The Emperor's Club, The Girl Next Door, Lords of Dogtown, Milk, and Into the Wild.
However, like many deeply talented people, success in his field has not protected him from struggles with the ravages of addiction. After being arrested for aggravated assault in February 2015, Emile has checked into rehab and is currently undergoing treatment for alcoholism.
Realizing the need for help
On January 25, while attending the Sundance Film Festival, Emile encountered Dani Bernfeld, Vice President of Digital Entertainment for Paramount Pictures. The two were both at the Tao nightclub, where Emile had been drinking to the point of appearing deeply intoxicated.
According to court documents, Emile angrily called Dani a "rich kid" who didn't belong at Sundance, and then attacked her, knocking her down and choking her. Emile was arrested the next morning, but his lawyer reported that he had "consumed a large amount of alcohol," and "had no memory of what happened."
It was this tragic event that caused Emile to realize his need for help, and enter treatment. Once he realized what he had done, he expressed deep remorse, voluntarily checking himself into a treatment center "to ensure nothing like this ever happens again."
Alcohol and violent behavior
Alcohol cannot be viewed as an excuse for violence against women, or any other unacceptable act, because excessive drinking does not let someone off the hook from their behavior. However, Emily is not alone in finding that a drinking problem contributes to him engaging in troubling and violent behavior he wouldn't otherwise commit.
A 2007 Australian study found that 52 percent of the people arrested for assault had consumed alcohol, 26 percent self-reporting that being under the influence had contributed to their violent behavior.
Alcohol reduces inhibitions, shutting down parts of the brain that analyze consequences for behavior. Even at low levels, drinking alcohol can slow down people's ability to scan and adjust their behavior to their environment.
Alcohol affects the brain's levels of serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine, combing to create an effect that can exacerbate violent tendencies. Drinking heavily intensifies this effect, often causing people to spontaneously engage in high-risk behavior that would otherwise give them pause.
Furthermore, by impairing one's ability to process information correctly, alcohol can lead to a misreading of social cues, creating the sense of a perceived threat when there isn't one. Heavy drinking can thus make it easier for someone to feel threatened or provoked, facilitating an urge to violent behavior.
Since his first role at age 11, Emile Hirsch has enjoyed considerable success, and rarely been out of work as an actor throughout most of his life. If drinking has been a problem for him in the past, he would meet the definition of a "high functioning addict," or someone who is able to outwardly appear successful and competent in spite of an addiction they hide from others.
Because they are able to hide their addiction so well, with no apparent interference from their lives, high functioning addicts are often less able to seek help then those to whom it is obvious their addiction is a problem. For this reason, it is often necessary for high functioning addicts to "hit rock bottom," or come to a point where they have no choice but to face the consequences of their actions.
Alcohol was at least partially responsible for Emile attacking another person, and will hopefully serve as a wake-up call to his need for help. We wish him the best of success as he begins the road to recovery.