Hoffer, MD, PhD
Natural Medicine Pioneer Looks Ahead
by Peter Chowka
part of this extensive new interview, conducted during
the second week of December 1999, was published in Natural
HealthLine on Dec. 15, 1999. Here is the second and final part.
Hoffer, MD, PhD was born in Saskatchewan, Canada in 1917. He was
awarded a PhD from the University of Minnesota in 1944 and an
MD from the University of Toronto in 1949.
a career spanning more than five decades, Hoffer has not only
made some of the most original contributions in the area of natural
healing, particularly for mental illness, but he's also pioneered
the entire field of orthomolecular medicine. (Orthomolecular medicine
achieves or preserves health by manipulating substances such as
vitamins that are normally present in the body). Hoffer's work
has always been based on sound science and exceptional clinical
work. He combines the best attributes of an innovative research
scientist and a compassionate clinician. His work overall represents
an absolutely vital and original series of contributions to contemporary
natural medicine, particularly in view of the fact that he began
his career decades ago when alternative therapies were not highly
regarded by the mainstream and when clinical innovation was particularly
disfavored. Hoffer is the author of more than 600 papers in the
medical and psychiatric literature plus twenty books including
his latest, Vitamin B-3 and Schizophrenia - Discovery, Recovery,
Controversy. Another recent book, about cancer and nutrition,
began as a collaboration with the late Linus Pauling, PhD. Hoffer
has had extensive experience treating people with cancer and other
diseases, in addition to mental illness.
the midst of my extensive interview with Abram Hoffer, MD, PhD,
a news story appeared and received major play in the nation's
Seek to Treat Mental Disorders, U.S. Study Says"
New York Times Syndicate
-- One in every five Americans experiences a mental disorder
any given year, and half of all Americans have such disorders
at some time in their lives, but most of them never seek treatment,
the surgeon general of United States says in a comprehensive
story prompted several questions to Dr. Hoffer, after which we
discussed orthomolecular medicine in some detail.
What do you think of this news? Do you agree with the U.S. Surgeon
General that mental illness is so prevalent? Is it possible that
many behaviors are now being medicalized? If so, why do you think
that is? Is there a danger when experts claim that so much mental
illness exists, that truly serious conditions like schizophrenia
or psychosis may be marginalized or lumped in with quasi-mental
Hoffer, MD, PhD:
I do agree that mental illness is very prevalent but the number
of people who are ill depends on how one defines mental illness.
Surveys over the past fifty years have shown that many people
do have mental problems. I think one should divide the so called
mentally ill into the major psychoses diagnosed as early as possible
and the non-psychotic disorders such as anxiety states and depression.
But the question cannot be easily resolved because diagnosis is
driven by the American Psychiatric Association (APA) Manual on
Diagnosis which becomes heavier, like the phone book, every time
it is revised and adds new terms to the diagnostic list, each
with its own number.
has been argued that if this APA trend continues, then one day
every person will be considered a psychiatric problem with his
or her own diagnostic number. Sometimes, the APA backs down. For
example, for many years homosexuality was considered to be a mental
disease. Later, it was removed from the diagnostic list.
is a major tendency to use diagnosis as a descriptive device that
has no causal value nor any treatment value. Thus there are about
fifty terms for children with learning or behavioral disorders.
If a child has a problem with mathematics, that is given one term.
If a child has a problem reading, it is given another term. In
my opinion based on two thousand children under age fourteen whom
I have treated since 1960, most of these children can be classified
causally into two major groups: those with allergies and those
needing orthomolecular doses of many of the B vitamins and some
of the essential minerals and essential fatty acids.
in all I think that about five percent of the population will
have one or more major psychotic episodes during their lifetimes,
that another five percent will suffer from one of the addictions
including alcoholism, and another ten percent will have problems
with depression and anxiety. I think about twenty percent of the
population will have conditions that can be treated successfully
by orthomolecular means. Pharmaceutical drugs should be used with
caution and as support to the orthomolecular treatment only, not
as the primary treatment.
are the conventional therapies for schizophrenia? How successful
is conventional medicine in reversing it or controlling it?
Conventional treatment may be divided into two components: psychosocial
and biochemical. Psychosocial therapy has never been very effective
and no one has ever claimed that one could improve results over
natural recovery rates. For this reason psychoanalysis quickly
took hold especially in the United States and by 1955 it was in
full swing to the detriment of thousands of patients and to the
whole field of psychiatry as a science. While every other branch
of medicine was advancing very rapidly, psychiatry was stuck in
the same old mold until the first tranquilizer, chlorpromazine,
a major anti-histamine, was shown to be active by a French surgeon,
Dr. H. Laborit, in about 1950.
then, psychiatry has paid tremendous lip service to the need for
psychotherapy even though in practice it is mostly ignored. What
is in fact very essential is counseling, support, and understanding
for chronic patients who have been damaged by the disease and
by the way it was treated over the years, and rehabilitation and
education for patients hit early and kept away from the mainstream
of life for many years. But any psychosocial treatment used alone
without biochemical treatment is a waste of human life and money.
biochemical or medical treatment consists of the old and more
recent tranquilizer medication. The main difference between the
old and the new is that the new ones are much more expensive since
they are still covered by insurance. Recent reports that discussed
these treatments point out that there is little difference in
efficacy, that both sets of compounds have side effects but that
these side effects are different. In my opinion it does not make
them better. The major side effect of the old treatments was tardive
dyskinesia which is more rare with the new treatments but the
new ones have major side effects such as excessive weight gain,
and may still cause tardive dyskinesia.
drugs include the anti-depressants, which can be very useful and
do not have the same degree and intensity of side effects. Lithium
is used commonly but first these patients are diagnosed as bipolar
even though they have pathological perceptual changes and thought
disorders. Only later is it recognized that they were schizophrenic
all along. The anti-anxiety drugs may also be used. These are
the diazepines, which tend to be addictive and from which it may
be very hard to wean patients.
are very helpful in decreasing the intensity of the symptoms.
Hallucinations are moderated and delusions greatly decreased in
intensity. Agitated behavior is controlled and many patients will
gain a degree of insight. Therefore, the drugs are very helpful
and need to be used. They also work very quickly. However, very
few patients ever recover to the point they can pay income tax.
I challenge any psychiatrist not practicing orthomolecular medicine
to describe any of their patients who are so well that they can
go back to gainful employment, free of symptoms and signs. On
the contrary, with orthomolecular psychiatry most of the patients
sick for less than two years will recover. I see them every day
in my office.
induce what I call a "tranquilizer psychosis." In other
words, the natural psychosis "schizophrenia" is replaced
by iatrogenic [doctor-caused] psychosis. This condition was first
suggested by Dr. Mayer Gross, a psychiatrist practicing in England
over forty years ago, when he stated that these drugs converted
one psychosis into another. The tranquilizer psychosis is marked
by a decrease in the frequency and intensity of symptoms and signs,
by a decrease in the intensity of the thought disorder, and by
a calming effect on the patient. But it also causes concentration
problems, memory problems, difficulty in thinking, apathy, inertia,
and inability to function in normal activity.
the short term, tranquilizers are helpful but they merely maintain
a person in a chronic state of invalidism. This is the tranquilizer
dilemma. And it is based on the following two conclusions with
which no one will argue: The first is that these drugs do help
patients initiate the process of recovery and the second is that
they make normal people psychotic. In fact the original animal
model for these drugs was the catatonic test. Animals were given
drugs and those that made them catatonic became our tranquilizers.
when drug treatment is started there is an improvement and as
the condition gets better clinically, it is obvious that the disease
process must also be getting better. As the process of recovery
continues, the person becomes more normal in their biochemistry
as well, and at a certain point the drugs begin to produce the
tranquilizer psychosis. There is a change over from one psychosis
to the other. Psychiatrists know this but will not talk about
it. They deal with it by reducing or eliminating the drug but
the unfortunate result is that the original condition recurs and
the unhappy patient is left swinging between two extremes.
treatment is helpful in controlling the disease and in keeping
patients out of hospital but in terms of restoring these patients
back to society, the treatments are singularly unhelpful.
treatment (ECT) has helped many patients but only when it is used
in combination with orthomolecular treatment. It is used much
more rarely now.
Is it possible to diagnose schizophrenia or recognize it early
on? Are there benefits to early diagnosis and treatment?
possible to diagnose early. In fact it is essential that this
be done for the therapeutic results are so much better and quicker
when an early diagnosis is made. Our book, How To Live With
Schizophrenia, described very clearly what it is, what are
the symptoms and signs, and how to make early diagnosis. Also
our HOD test is very helpful in assisting early diagnosis. Ideally,
the diagnosis should be made by the first physician who sees the
patient. In Canada this is the family physician or general practitioner.
When they are trained to recognize the disease and have simple
tests like the HOD to help, they do diagnose early and treatment
in their hands is very effective. I know several of these doctors
who test their patients much more successfully than do any of
the local psychiatrists because they do recognize them early and
treat vigorously with orthomolecular methods. In many cases there
may be no need for drugs. Late diagnosis condemns the patient
to chronic invalidism and their family to a life full of stress
In your experience, what is the optimum treatment? And please
define "orthomolecular medicine."
The term "orthomolecular psychiatry" or "orthomolecular
medicine" was developed by Linus Pauling, PhD in his famous
report to Science magazine in 1968. He defined it as the use of
substances that are normally present in the body using the optimum
amount. He referred to nutrients such as vitamins, amino acids,
essential minerals, and so on. The key words are naturally present
and optimum. Because the optimum doses may vary enormously from
very small - the usual RDA or vitamin doses - to very large -
practice, orthomolecular medicine is combined with any other treatment
that is effective. Thus, in treating many schizophrenic patients,
I have found that they need rapid control and this is achieved
by the drugs. But they also need to recover and this is obtained
by the use of orthomolecular methods.
brief, this is what the treatment consists of in my practice:
Nutrition - The diet is cleaned up by eliminating, as much as
possible, all the junk in our food. "Junk" I define
as any food that contains added simple sugars. It includes pastry,
candy, soft drinks, and sugar in the drinks but does not include
fruit to which sugar has not been added. One also looks for food
allergies and eliminates them when they are found.
The right nutrients in optimum amounts - Thus with vitamin C one
may need to use a range from 500 milligrams to thousands of milligrams
daily. The sicker the patient is, the more vitamin C will be needed.
In treating schizophrenia one may need 500 milligrams of B-3 with
each meal up to 3000 milligrams after each meal. I can not give
the details here. They are described in the orthomolecular literature
and on my Web page. The nutrients include vitamins, minerals,
amino acids, essential fatty acids, enzymes, and other natural
The optimum amount of medication - This must be removed as soon
as possible as the aim is to get and keep patients well without
needing drugs, for the reasons described above.
Support, counseling, encouragement, hope, and above all, patience
- Patients also have to be advised that they must be patient.
Seldom are there quick cures.
should expect the following results (my criteria for recovery
freedom from symptoms and signs
along well with one's family
along well with the community
patients do not shoot up school children or go on murderous rampages.
for less than two years - treated for at least two years - 90 percent
recovery. Sick for many years, treated until they get well, and
this may take up to twenty years; over 50 percent will recover and
the rest will be much
Can schizophrenia by prevented?
Yes, in many cases it can be prevented but not by using tranquilizer
medication. There are two aspects to this. One is to use preventive
treatment for people from vulnerable families. This applies to about
40 percent of the schizophrenics and their families. The rest of
the schizophrenic population comes from families in which there
is no family history of disease.
society the first step is education about the illness, how to diagnose
it, and how to get it treated very early before the classical symptoms
are formed. The public should be advised of the many factors that
can cause schizophrenia, such as food allergies. Parents should
be advised to watch their children develop and if there are disturbing
signs, such as slow speech development, hyperactivity, or changes
in personality, they should immediately take action - because, from
this group of young children will come many of the new schizophrenic
patients. Parents who have schizophrenia should be aware that with
one parent ill or who has been ill, one tenth of the children might
also develop it. If both parents have been or are ill, it
may affect half of their children.
children of schizophrenic parents should be given special attention
and be exposed to the best nutrition and the use of extra vitamins
from an early age. In 1960 in Saskatoon [Saskatchewan] I treated
a father and a mother for schizophrenia. They both recovered. The
father has been working ever since. The mother, after recovering,
became a nurse, took advanced education, and went into administration.
They have four children. Three were not well. But they were all
treated and have been well since. This is what I mean by seeking
out vulnerable persons and getting them treated early.
the rest of society this will not be possible. For this latter group
the best advice is to be aware of the problem that can develop and
what to do about it. Real prevention should follow the model of
pellagra and how it was controlled in the United States. Before
synthetic niacinamide was added to flours, pellagra was endemic
and for many years was epidemic. Adding a tiny amount of a vitamin
to flour prevented most cases of pellagra from developing. I think
that adding 100 milligrams to the diets of every person would within
ten years have a major effect in decreasing the incidence of schizophrenia.
You have worked to treat other medical conditions as well, including
cancer, using a more natural, orthomolecular approach. Is what you
have observed or learned in treating schizophrenia applicable to
our understanding of other serious illness -- clinically and politically,
Orthomolecular treatment began with our double blind placebo controlled
therapeutic trials on schizophrenia patients in 1951, the first
such study in world psychiatry. The design we published in 1954
is the same as the one highly touted today by medical investigators.
But we learned over the years that it may be applied to almost every
disease. Who can doubt that even the most serious diseases such
as cancer and tuberculosis will not benefit from having the patients
be as nutritionally healthy as possible? I cannot understand how
anyone could argue with this conclusion. It is being used world
wide to treat almost every medical disease and is especially being
studied in the treatment of cancer. This follows the observations
made by Ewan Cameron and Linus Pauling that large doses of vitamin
C were very helpful in extending the life of cancer patients and
improving the quality of life. I have treated eleven hundred cancer
patients since 1977 and have written a book describing my results.
There is no doubt that the addition of orthomolecular methods to
the standard treatment has been very beneficial to my patients with
a large number of patients recoverring from their so-called terminal
it has been easier to introduce orthomolecular methods into general
medicine. The greater political battle is still with psychiatry
which is the least biochemically oriented of all the branches of
medicine. The work is moving forward but very slowly. Psychiatry
prefers to use drugs and nothing else and refuses to examine the
claims made by orthomolecular psychiatrists and physicians.
What percentage of your patients do you treat for schizophrenia?
I see about fifty patients each week. Of these, about 25 percent
are schizophrenic. I have under my care about five hundred chronic
patients in the city of Victoria and Southern Vancouver Island.
Almost all of them are residues from previous treatments that failed.
My new patients do not enter the chronic pool. None of the five
hundred chronic patients is worse. About fifty percent are well,
and the rest are better. I see them at intervals ranging from once
every two months to every three or four years.
Could you discuss the work of the Canadian Schizophrenia Foundation
and your drive to raise money for the Hoffer Endowment Fund? What
will that money go for? How can people learn more about the work
The Canadian Schizophrenia Foundation (CSF) was organized about
thirty years ago. We are federally incorporated as a not-for-profit
and the Huxley Institute of Bio-social Research in New York but
now no longer in existence as a national body were instrumental
in introducing nutritional medicine at an age when most physicians
had never heard about it. We trained many of the physicians who
have since then become world leaders in this field, like Allan Cott,
C. C. Pfeiffer, and so on.
mission it to take the treatment of schizophrenia and other diseases
into the 21st century so that patients with schizophrenia will no
longer have to hide their heads in shame and can expect to recover
when they go for treatment. To achieve this we have a very large
assortment of books and other scientific materials covering every
aspect of orthomolecular medicine. We have annual scientific meetings
alternately in Toronto or Vancouver. Next April  we meet in
Vancouver. These are two and one-half day meetings with participants
and faculty from around the world. The International Society of
Orthomolecular Medicine (ISOM) also meets at the same time. ISOM
has 17 member countries. Japan will be the next addition. At a recent
meeting in Japan arranged by Dr. Michael Lesser, one of the orthomolecular
pioneers from Berkeley, over two thousand people were there including
over two-hundred doctors.
CSF also provides information to the media and tries to get our
message, a message of hope, out, as often as possible. Recently,
the actress Margot Kidder recovered from her psychosis of many years
duration and became our spokes person. She narrated a film and also
appeared in it, Masks of Madness: Science of Healing. This one-hour
film is superb; it features my schizophrenic patients who have recovered.
One female patient who appears in the film was not allowed by her
psychiatrist to take vitamins. She was married to one of my recovered
patients. A few months ago she committed suicide. She was the only
one not on orthomolecular treatment. Schizophrenic patients under
my care do not commit suicide. This video is available for sale
from the CSF.
funded by private contributions, and by income from the sale of
our literature and books. We have not been given any grants from
government and that has allowed us to be critical of the way government
medicine deals with patients. However, we must ensure our survival
and for this reason the board decided to launch a drive to raise
at least two million dollars for an endowment fund called the Dr.
Abram Hoffer Endowment fund. Once we have achieved this goal we
will be able to operate indefinitely using the income from this
fund and the money generated by our activities.
one of the two founders. The other was Dr. H. Osmond. I am President
and have been for the past 30 years or so. My work is well known.
I have authored about twenty books and over 600 scientific and other
papers in the medical and psychiatric literature. I was one of the
three who discovered that niacin lowered cholesterol levels and
this led to niacin becoming the first vitamin accepted by the FDA
to be used in megadose levels. The paper we published in 1955 marks
the beginning of the new paradigm in medicine, the use of vitamins
as treatments and not merely to prevent the few classical deficiency
disease. With Dr. Osmond and Dr. John Smythies, I developed the
adrenochrome hypothesis of schizophrenia. This hypothesis, long
reviled by classical psychiatry, is now coming back strong into
modern research psychiatry in England.
that as many people as possible will contribute to the Canadian
Schizophrenic Foundation. Two million dollars is the cost of one
patient's treatment with drugs alone or not treated at all over
their forty year life span. When we reach our target of $2 million
we can continue to educate the profession and the public about how
they do not have to depend on tranquilizers alone, that there is
something better - and that is, to get well by using orthomolecular
16 Florence Ave.
Toronto, Ontario M2N 1E9
Telephone: 416 733 2117. Fax: 416 733 2352
Web site: http://www.orthomed.org/csf/csf.htm
A. Hoffer, MD, PhD, FRCP(C)
3-2727 Quadra St.
Victoria, BC V8T 4E5
The Second World Conference on Nutrition & Vitamin Therapy
San Francisco February 20-22, 2000
Hoffer on Cancer
Hoffer on Schizophrenia
Orthomolecular Medicine Online