By Katherine A. Carroll, NTP

Orthomolecular Treatment for Schizophrenia by Abram Hoffer, M.D., Ph.D, F.R.C.P. (C) (ISBN 0-87983-910-4; Keats, a division of NTC/Contemporary Publishing Group, Inc., 4255 West Touhy Avenue, Lincolnwood, Illinois, 60646-1975 USA, 1999, paperback and e-book, 589 pages, $5.95; Kindle version $3.16)

Schizophrenia is a biochemical disorder that expresses itself in mental symptoms – “a disease of perception combined with an inability to tell whether perceptual changes are real or not.” Psychiatrist Dr. Abram Hoffer was one of the founders of orthomolecular medicine. His book, Orthomolecular Treatment for Schizophrenia, is a timeless classic in that vein. Functional medicine is based upon this “systems approach,” as is my own discipline, Nutritional Therapy, both of which use diet, vitamins, minerals, and fatty acids for treatment of disease and not just for prevention only.

            This term was used in 1968 by Linus Pauling in his Science report called “Orthomolecular Psychiatry.” Since then, this concept has revolutionized the way illness is both viewed and treated by progressively thinking, holistic practitioners.

            In this instance “Ortho” means “right,” or the “best,” which implies imbalances in the body will best be addressed by restoring proper structure and function of an organ or system by replenishing the supporting, essential nutrients; namely, the nutrients that are normally present in the body. Coming from my Nutritional Therapist background, this book makes sense and explains why none of the drugs used to treat schizophrenia, or any mental illness, have produced a cure. The body is not short on tranquilizers; it is short on niacin, Vitamin C, and other nutrients, and fatty acids in the case of schizophrenia and tardive dyskinesia. Dr. Hoffer details treatment regimens quite clearly, along with dosing recommendations, enabling treatment to begin at home while searching for a cooperative nutritional therapist or physician to partner in healing.

            Having treated over 4,000 patients since 1952 with his orthomolecular regimen, Dr. Hoffer has experienced a 90% recovery rate if the patient will be compliant for two years and continue to report to the healthcare practitioner dedicated to getting him or her well. There has evidently been some confusion in the diagnosis of schizophrenia, which has gone against treatment results. It has been confused with manic depressive disease (bipolar) and borderline personality disorder (BPD) which need a different treatment regimen.

            The bottom line is that Dr. Hoffer employed nutrient mega-doses and got results. A very interesting “adrenochrome” hypothesis unfolds in his book for those who want to understand the nuts and bolts of the disease process and each nutrient/fatty acid that will bring healing to compliant patients. I found this fascinating as well as the fact that 75% of schizophrenics have a substance in their bodies that binds zinc and Vitamin B-6, producing a double deficiency and contributing to their disease process. Also noted was the increased prevalence of schizophrenia where fodder crops are selenium deficient.

            Dr. Hoffer explains how genetic defects, particularly in methylation pathways, can set up some people to become schizophrenic. By restoring the function of the pathway, symptoms often resolve. He found that “the major surge to recovery occurred at about seven years.”   By starting with ruling out food and substance allergies, first by water fasting for four days and later with the easier elimination diets where foods are omitted and reintroduced at regular intervals and noting how the body responds, he was able to eradicate symptoms by this method alone! For some patients, it wasn’t food but aspirin or tobacco that brought on hallucinations, paranoia, grandiosity, and hearing voices. The addition of high-dose niacin and Vitamin C really took recovery to the next level, while unfortunately putting him at odds with the traditional scientific peers of his day.

            This is an empowering work full of scientific studies and hope for anyone suffering from this disease as well as for their family. In the past, the dysfunction of the family was included in the assessment of schizophrenia, producing guilt upon their already substantial stress in living with a schizophrenic. Now we know that it is bio-chemical in nature and once proper structure and function is addressed, healing can begin.

            The author’s perspective is refreshingly blunt in regards to modern psychiatric wards being “tranquilizer filling stations similar in function to gasoline filling stations. Patients are admitted for a refill and rapidly discharged, irrespective of their real mental conditions.” True healing takes time, effort, and thoughtful analysis of the real problems that allowed a disease process or a syndrome to take root. Dr. Hoffer has not only pioneered this novel approach but had success with 90% of his patients. In fact, he assures us that those practitioners who practice this in concept – even where deviating from his protocol – will find resolution of schizophrenia in almost every case presented to them. As he put it, “Every physician who has treated this class of patient with the regimen I have described has obtained identical therapeutic results.”

            Of particular interest to me is that “Schizophrenics themselves tend to be physically superior to nonschizophrenics and appear more youthful (even in old age); their hair does not turn gray as early as the normal population’s would; they have higher tolerance to pain; they do not have as high an incidence of arthritis or cancer; and they are more resistant to bacterial infections. They also seem to be more creative, a psychological trait due perhaps to their inner experiences with perceptual changes.”

            Even if schizophrenia doesn’t impact your life, getting a glimpse into Dr. Hoffer’s stellar analytical abilities, which produced positive outcomes for thousands of people, is a treat because that same thought-process transfers over to formulate logical treatment plans for all diseases and it influences the development of critical and strategic thinking skills. Dr. Hoffer was Editor in Chief of The Journal of Orthomolecular Medicine and wrote over 500 articles and several books on the topic. He has truly left a legacy.