Dr. Abram Hoffer died this week at the age of 91. A renowned Canadian psychiatrist, Dr. Hoffer was instrumental in discovering the importance of megadoses of vitamins in the treatment of psychiatric disorders like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, and was a pioneer in the field of orthomolecular medicine.
The term “orthomolecular” was coined by Nobel laureate Linus Pauling to mean “the right molecules in the right amounts” (ortho is Greek for “right”). Pauling theorized that “substances that are normally present in the human body” are necessarily good and can be used at high doses to treat disease.
Dr. Hoffer said that orthomolecular medicine does not purport to treat all diseases, nor is it “a replacement for standard treatment. A proportion of patients will require orthodox treatment, a proportion will do much better on orthomolecular treatment, and the rest will need a skillful blend of both.” That is the very definition of integrative medicine.
From his work with patients in a Canadian mental institution, he hypothesized that schizophrenics lack the ability to remove an hallucinogenic metabolite called adrenochrome from their brains. He found that he could decrease the concentration of adrenochrome in the brain by using high doses of vitamin C.
Observing biochemical abnormalities and serendipitous cancer recoveries among his psychiatric patients, Hoffer worked for several years on the potential anticancer effects of nutrients, particularly the B vitamins, selenium, and ascorbate. He says this included treating hundreds of cancer patients with nutrients, with reported success.
In the mid-1960s, mainstream psychiatry was emphasizing the use of neuroleptic drugs, and Hoffer reported that he and like-minded researchers were snubbed and became the victims of a conspiracy, with their reports rejected by scientific journals. In 1967, Hoffer resigned his academic and administrative positions, entered into private psychiatric practice Canada, and created the Journal of Orthomolecular Medicine.
In a 2006 interview, Hoffer stated that while he felt that current mainstream psychiatric care was “terrible,” his theories and treatments were starting to become more accepted. “[W]e’re at a transition point. If I live another four or five years, I’ll see it.”