Wednesday, April 7, 2010

A.A. and SZ

Dr. Abram Hoffer, the originator of niacin treatment for schizophrenia, believed that alcoholism was often a coping mechanism for latent schizophrenia. These two conditions, while on the outside may not have much in common, respond well to megadoses of niacin in combination with other vitamins. There is also a psycho/spiritual dimension that cannot be ignored in both. It is interesting, given that these two conditions have much in common, that programs like Alcoholics Anonymous have seen many success stories, while the same cannot be said for schizophrenia treatment programs.

A.A.'s growth and track record is due to some principles that were understood from the beginning. The founders recognized that in order to succeed in their work, A.A. had to be a volunteer organization, where alcoholics were there to counsel others as peers. They managed to secure some initial funding from J.D. Rockefeller, but Rockefeller and his associates were reluctant to fund them further, warning them to steer clear of the trap of "professionalism". Money, it was felt, would spoil a good thing. Paid volunteers, according to A.A.'s members, would destroy trust.

The spiritual/religious dimension is a very strong part of A.A. Contrast this with schizophrenia, where religiosity is considered a symptom of psychosis to be chemically eliminated.

The treatment approach that came closest to A.A. for schizophrenia was Soteria, which relied on non-medical people to work closely with the patients. In fact, many people who have recovered from schizophrenia credit their recovery to someone who cared, who was able to empathize with them, perhaps someone who had been there himself. A.A. incidentally, deliberately preferred to staff the organization with recovered alcoholics, including medical doctors.

Today's schizophrenia programs, by and large, are not success stories. They rely on paid medical staff (who, presumably, are not former schizophrenics), not counseling by peers. The doctor knows best, the patients' personal life stories are considered irrelevant in the face of the "proven efficacy" of the biochemical model.


  1. Bill Wilson, Co-founder of Alcoholic Anonmymous was inducted into the Orthomolecular Hall of Fame in 2006 for his work with niacin -


  2. Thanks very much for this link with the quote by Aldoux Huxley: "Bill Wilson is the greatest social architect of the 20th century." I will be doing further postings on his work with niacin.

  3. If "religiosity" is a symptom to be chemically eliminated... I hope the experiment is never successful!

    Spiritual connection is very important, I believe... to achieving a sense of wellness and real self-worth... not of the arrogant variety, but of the true understanding of our own goodness that comes from our creation, and our connection to this very creation...

    It's quite frightening to think that conventional psychiatry has such little respect for those who appreciate this mystery...

    Thank you for the post!


  4. Agreed. Conventional psychiatry has aligned itself with drug therapy, which undermines psychiatrists who understand the spiritual connection. They seem to be in the minority. To me it's like the Hearing Voices Movement, when a patient challenged Dr. Marius Romme to accept that her voice hearing was valid and meaningful to her. People with mental health diagnoses are very interested in religious experiences - these are valid and not the ravings of a lunatic.


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