Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Orthomolecular Dr. Hoffer

Dr Abram Hoffer is the dean of orthomolecular psychiatry. He is the first, the starting point, the base, for anyone who wants to learn more about what schizophrenia is and how best to treat it using vitamin support. Orthomolecular is a term coined by Nobel laureate Dr Linus Pauling. It means "the right molecule". It is using supplemements to correct biochemical imbalances.

Dr Hoffer is still going strong at over 90 years old. I like Dr. Hoffer. I wrote him a fan letter in 2005 after Chris had been on his recommended combination of niacinimide (vitamin B3), vitamin C, B-complex, omega 3 and zinc for only a few weeks. The changes in Chris after such a short time were noticeable, despite the fact he had been on meds for over a year. He was more focused and engaged. His skin became clearer. His hair, which was becoming alarmingly thin for someone his age, became thicker.

Dr Hoffer's book, How to Live with Schizophrenia, is a must read. It is positive and upbeat, unlike some other well-known and widely quoted authorities on schizophrenia. It is loaded with good tips and really interesting observations. He respects his patients and learns from them.

I also have been faithfully using his recommended combination of vitamins since 2005. Interestingly, what works for schizophrenia also works to prevent alzheimers/dementia, according to Dr Hoffer. Here, there are a couple of things to keep in mind. The first is the word "prevent". Once dementia begins, vitamins are ineffective. The closer in age you are to dementia (for all practical purposes in your sixties) you should substitute niacin for niacinimide. If you are in your fifties, you should begin with 3 grams of niacinimide per day and an equal amount of vitamin C (to prevent liver damage), a B complex (to make the other vitamins work more efficiently), and throw in an omega 3 and a zinc or another B vitamin (B-6, B-12). Niacin produces a burning sensation in your body. It is harmless, but nonetheless rather scary if you don't know what to expect.

I never plan to be without Dr Hoffer's recommended schizophrenia/dementia vitamins. People laughingly refer to "senior moments", but in my early fifties I was having trouble focusing. At the time I attributed it to the stress of juggling family and work responsibilities, but I feel now that my brain was tired. After only a few days on the niacinimide formula, I felt on top of my game intellectually. I could push through to complete a complex series of thoughts. I now had intellectual energy whereas before I had little. I began reading more complex books. I began to write my own book. Like Chris, my skin became amazingly clear. My hair grew back its former thickness. I was much calmer.

If you think of holistic health as a pyramid, orthomolecular medicine is the broad base of the pyramid. Proper foods, vitamins and minerals are the building blocks of good health.

Here is Dr Hoffer's vitamin package, courtesy of the Canadian Schizophrenia Foundation.

SUPPLEMENTS: Vitamin B3 (niacin or niacinamide) 0.5 – 2 grams 3 times daily. Vitamin B6 (for many) 250-500 mg daily. A general B vitamin formula. Vitamin C, 3 or more grams daily. Zinc (gluconate or citrate) 50 mg daily. Manganese 15-30 mg daily (if there is danger of tardive dyskinesia).


  1. Hi Rossa - I'm reading you blog... These supplements - do you still use them three years later? I have an appointment with my son Kit's psychiatrist on Thursday and I will talk to him about this.

    I've never been a believe in holistic, chinese etc. medicine. I took nursing in college and have been involved in the medical field for a long time - not as a nurse, but am now willing to try anything... With advice from an MD to start..

  2. Lesley,

    Please take a look at some of the links on this page -


  3. Lesley,
    Yes, I still take these supplements. (I've never looked back. They have kept me focused.) I doubt the doctor will endorse the taking of supplements - they are a threat to the belief that medications alone will manage schizophrenia. An interesting website which publishes a lot of Dr. Hoffer's research is and, of course, Duane's site is an excellent resource.

  4. Lesley - My son did a few sessions of acupuncture, and IMO, acupuncture is not particularly effective for mental health diagnoses. Holistic treatment is more than just acupuncture and vitamins in any case. It's also about attitude, mind/body therapies, etc.


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