Grischa Metlay

Grischa received undergraduate degrees in molecular biology and science and technology studies from Cornell University, a master’s degree in sociology/science studies from the University of California – San Diego, and a doctoral degree in the history of science from Harvard.  He is currently a DeWitt Stetten Postdoctoral Fellow in the Office of NIH History.  Grischa has previously published on the history of university patent policies, but his current work focuses on substance abuse. 

Specifically, his book project, under contract with Johns Hopkins University Press, examines the history of scientific and medical efforts to control alcohol and drug abuse in the United States since 1870.  Revolving around preeminent institutions for researchers and professional practitioners, the book examines continuities and discontinuities in scientific conceptions of alcohol and drug problems, as well as practical efforts to reduce them.  While conceptions of addiction and abuse have changed profoundly over time, Grischa’s research shows that experts were consistently guided by two overarching principles:

  1. The complexity of alcohol and drug problems can only be understood through multidisciplinary research; and 
  2. Practical solutions will emerge out of scientific research. 

Nevertheless, researchers have never successfully integrated biological and social scientific understandings of the problems they identified, and effective, science-based solutions have been few and far between.  The persistence of epistemic misalignments, and the stubborn gap between knowledge and practice, raise difficult questions about scientific and medical approaches to substance abuse, as well as other complex health problems.