Thursday 26th July saw the launch of, a new English language science blog network., the brand-new home for Nature Network bloggers, forms part of the SciLogs international collection of blogs which already exist in German, Spanish and Dutch. To celebrate this addition to the NPG science blogging family, some of the NPG blogs are publishing posts focusing on "Beginnings".

Participating in this cross-network blogging festival is’s Soapbox Science blog, Scitable's Student Voices blog and bloggers from,, Scitable and Scientific American’s Blog Network. Join us as we explore the diverse interpretations of beginnings – from scientific examples such as stem cells to first time experiences such as publishing your first paper. You can also follow and contribute to the conversations on social media by using the #BeginScights hashtag.


In the late 1920s, two physicians attempted to note the symptoms of morphine withdrawal. After 36 hours without morphine, one patient dropped out of the study, refusing to further participate unless he was given more of the drug. The doctors then, instead, injected him with water, noting that he fell asleep and that he experienced no clear blood composition, metabolic or circulatory changes, though he did exhibit restlessness, vomiting and diarrhea. These signs were dismissed as mild and unremarkable. Their medical verdict was that withdrawal wasn't so serious a problem, merely a (mostly) feigned illness.

Light and Torrance's failure to identify the physiological reasons for withdrawal in 1929 was among addiction's first medically-induced stereotypes, marketing the disease as a sign of personal weakness or hypochondria.

Before then, narcotics were fairly freely administered and poorly understood: as late as 1884 Sigmund Freud began prescribing the "magical drug" cocaine as treatment for depression and pain. Then, drugs were wonder-things, despite Freud's debilitating battle with his magical coca later in life. “A small dose lifted me to the heights in a wonderful fashion. I am just now busy collecting the literature for a song of praise to this magical substance.”

It was alcohol rather than narcotics that originally turned the tides in substance abuse mindset: in 1935, Bill Wilson founded Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), and alcohol thereby became the first substance propagating addiction as a disease. After AA's founding, the term "alcoholic" began infiltrating the mainstream, gradually replacing the centuries-old term "drunkard."

And yet, still, nearly 80 years later, we have a hard time fathoming addiction as more than a choice.

I've blogged here for the past year and spoken with smart, curious SciAm readers in my comments section. However, there are still a mighty number misunderstanding, which on this Beginnings week, is why I write. Here are a few selects:

Submitted on 2012/06/13 at 6:22 pm

Rent a house to someone who deals drugs and you will never ask questions about redemption again or care. There is no focus on the children of these people until CPS takes them, and the children endure true hell, filth, bug (flea and roach infestations) hunger – that are blocked out by the dealers daily crack hit. Your cost is about $20,000.00 to restore your property, but the fact that it was used by people who could treat children that way will cause you to lose sleep.

Submitted on 2012/05/24 at 1:56 pm

This is bullshit. If your life’s fucked up because of a little weed, you have serious troubles and certainly are they’re unrelated to it. I know a lot of people who smoke and they have perfectly good lifes, me included.

One does not simply become addicted to weed.

Submitted on 2011/08/25 at 5:36 pm

Very few people seem to make it out of addiction for life.

I don’t understand how anyone would enjoy living in a confused brain.

Submitted on 2011/08/25 at 2:29 pm

Addicted folks are celebrating and having a good time in their mind. Someday they will get serious and quit partying.

I began because of stereotypes and stigma: I don't believe those with a nuanced turn of genetics should be isolated or subjected to moral judgments. More and more I find myself writing from a human-focused standpoint because I increasingly understand that while we can wrap tendrils of our minds around the science, we can't seem to accept, or stomach visualizing, human actions. We prefer the molecular precision of the lab.

My Beginnings are in science, but my Endings are with people and what they go through -- and it's not pretty. Actions in addiction are cloudy, dubious, vile even. Addicts are rarely those to whom you would turn in emergencies, to whom you would entrust the care of your child, to whom you would loan money. They're easy to turn away from, to ignore, to condemn. But there's a reason. Brain science is that reason. If neurochemical makeup's a variable crap shoot, and actions spark from brain wirings, how can we, as those who care about science, blame those affected?