By Published On: August 11th, 200650 Comments

At 88, Dr. Abram Hoffer is still dispensing wise nutritional advice and damning critiques of our health care system. On beginnings, orthomolecular medicine, psychedelic research, a revolutionary treatment for schizophrenia, and the state of present-day psychiatric care.

No Canadian psychiatrist has been simultaneously more dogged by controversy and more beloved by his patients than Victoria’s Dr. Abram Hoffer.

In an era when most psychiatrists believe in medicating for life, Hoffer has been a one-man “underground railroad” helping unchain patients from tranquillizing drugs.

Yet that’s not the reason he’s controversial.

Upon going to work as Director of Psychiatric Research for the Province of Saskatchewan in 1950, Hoffer and colleague Dr. Humphry Osmond became trailblazers.

They were one of the earliest institutional teams using psychedelics for therapy. They provided Aldous Huxley with the mescaline that led to his famous treatise, “The Doors of Perception”, which in part inspired Timothy Leary’s Harvard research and the psychedelic 60s. Hoffer also visited Prague, helping spark the 20th century’s other major psychedelic researcher, Dr. Stanislav Grof.

Teaming with Nobel Prize-winning chemist Linus Pauling, they then became internationally renowned for research into “megavitamin” treatments, and founded “orthomolecular medicine“.

But most controversially, Hoffer and Osmond were the first to develop a biochemical theory and proclaimed cure for schizophrenia.

For all this, they’ve been attacked by fellow professionals and medical and psychiatric organizations. In the 50s, psychiatry was dominated by Freudian psychoanalysts who believed schizophrenia was caused by sexual repression-Hoffer’s vitamin experiments in mental biochemistry seemed quackery at best, and dangerous overdosing at worst. Ironically, when tranquillizing drugs became the trend, Hoffer was ridiculed for using “ineffectual” chemicals. Still today, the U.S. National Institute of Health refuses to include the Hoffer-edited Journal of Orthomolecular Medicine in its “Medline” library of medical journals–though it includes Time and Reader’s Digest.

But slowly, many orthomolecular discoveries are being verified. For example, large doses of vitamin B-3 are now standard treatment for helping lower cholesterol, and the unusual skin reactions of many people diagnosed with schizophrenia to topical B-3 is being extensively analyzed.

Nevertheless, Hoffer’s cantankerous new memoir, Adventures in Psychiatry (KOS, 2006), shows he remains an outsider. At 88, he retired from private psychiatric practice last year and now provides nutritional consultations through his Orthomolecular Vitamin Information Centre.

RW: Was there anything in your childhood in Saskatchewan that inspired your independent thinking?

H: I admired my parents. They came out to settle the land in 1904 on the bald prairies. It was a huge farm. We had 80 cattle, 40 horses, sheep, grain. We had as many as 29 men working for us, and I’d be working with them, cutting and raking and stooking. It was backbreaking work. You might have ten hours a day seeing no one-just working. You have to develop some sense of reliance on yourself. And I got to the point that I would sooner look upon things myself rather than take people’s opinion of them.

RW: You went to university to study agricultural chemistry, but became interested in nutrition. Why?

H: I got a job in Winnipeg in Purity Flour Mills. They’d just started adding vitamins to their flour. I was in charge of the control lab, testing to see if there was enough. Eventually I got a PhD in biochemistry, and I got in the public debate between those who said you should only eat whole wheat flour, and those who said you should eat white flour with added vitamins. I realized that I didn’t have an MD so no one was listening to me, anyway. So I said, okay, I’d better take an MD.

RW: And why eventually psychiatry?

H: During my internship at a hospital, I had to do histories. “Chief complaint: pain, right lower quadrant. Present: five hours. Diagnosis: acute pendicitis.” That’d take me three minutes. But then a patient comes along and says, “I’ve got pain here, and it’s bothered me for years. Whenever I do this, it gets worse.” I’d check him over, do a physical, couldn’t find anything wrong. I’d get very interested, thinking, if there’s nothing wrong, what’s he complaining about? I’d spend hours with him talking. I began to realize there’s something more to health than just the physical aspect. I wanted to combine psychiatry, medicine and biochemistry.

RW: How did that lead back to nutrition?

H: I was Saskatchewan’s Director of Psychiatric Research from 1950 to 1967. We had 5,000 inmates in the hospital, half of them were schizophrenic, and we had no treatment. An admission to a mental hospital in 1950 was a life sentence.

And the hospitals were absolutely awful. Huge ward, no rooms, concrete floors. They didn’t give them showers; they’d flush them down with the hose. They looked upon them like vermin.

Dr. Osmond had this great idea. He said that if you gave normal people mescaline, it’s very much like the schizophrenic experience.

I surveyed all the known hallucinogens, and to my utter amazement and delight, they all had a single structure called “indole”. This was an enormous clue. The body doesn’t make these very often.

Adrenalin can become an indole when it oxidizes into adrenochrome. We proved that adrenochrome was active. It’s a hallucinogen, but not a nice one. With adrenochrome, you always get a bad, horrible reaction.

Now under stress, humans start pouring out adrenaline. Adrenalin is very dangerous. Normally we get rid of it by doing something-muscles use it up. The body also uses antioxidants like vitamin C, E, and glutathione. If these mechanisms fail, there’s one final fail-safe mechanism: copper and iron in the body change the adrenaline to adrenochrome. But that creates a huge overload of adrenochrome.

RW: This might explain why psychotic eruptions often occur when people are already experiencing intense stress and not exercising, not eating well…

H: Yes, we had the first theory that logically put together the effect of stress in causing illness.

I knew from my chemistry that if I were to use large amounts of niacin, vitamin B-3, I might prevent the body from reacting to the adrenochrome. So we ran double-blind, controlled experiments using niacin, and after that I began to treat individually. I’ve treated over 5,000 patients, and the results are so much better than if you just depend upon drugs alone.

RW: If common niacin is an antidote, why are diagnoses of schizophrenia epidemic?

H: If I stumble and fall, what caused me to fall? There are so many factors involved. You can’t find the cause. I like to talk about the factors you can modify.

In 1800, flour millers began to make pure white flour which had no B-3 anymore. And the first clinical description of schizophrenia was made about 1800. If you were to make sure that every child in Canada started eating flour that contained enough B-3, I suspect that schizophrenia would disappear.

What I’m saying is not that revolutionary; it just appears to be. In the southeast United States a hundred years ago, every spring one-third of their admissions to their mental hospitals were psychotic because they actually had pellagra, a disease of B-3 deficiency. They were very poor and they lived on corn, salt pork, and the odd green; a terrible diet.

RW: Today people diagnosed with schizophrenia don’t usually have pellagra. You believe some people have adrenochrome-pumping genes that make them need more B-3?

H: Yes. Schizophrenics have excellent genes. I wish I had them. They hardly ever get cancer. Adrenochrome kills cancer cells; I think the gene is nature’s answer to the cancer pandemic. On the psychological side, they’re brilliant: artists, scientists, poets, philosophers.

The problem is, we don’t feed these genes properly. If you have a million dollar car and you put water in the gas tank, is it going to perform very much for you?

RW: Next, you started noticing vitamin treatments were helping arthritis, high cholesterol, cancer, child behaviour problems, senility…

H: They’re all connected. Orthomolecular medicine is an advance on medicine, where we now begin to pay proper attention to food, what’s present in the food, what’s lacking, and use extra nutrients when they’re needed. We use medication, but in very small, optimum quantities.

RW: Even your critics concede not enough large-scale research has been done to adequately test your ideas. Why such disinterest or disrespect from other professionals?

H: The main reason is Big Pharma. They’re pushing drugs. They certainly don’t want to sell vitamins, when there’s no patent on them.

Also, there’s a reluctance to change in medicine. Paradigms are not easily changed. This is natural; it’s the history of innovation.

And there’s the Colleges of Physicians and Surgeons; their job is to be sure any heretic gets burnt at the stake. In Washington State, they have this Quality Control Assurance Commission, and they’re attacking all the holistic doctors. Yet there were about five hundred charges of sexual offenses (against MDs), where in half of them nothing was done. And the others were just slapped on the wrist!

So they’re just protecting their turf. Why did the Catholic Church fight so hard against the Reformation? Because they’d lose their jobs, they’d lose their control. Right now they can’t cut off our heads, but they can take away our licences, and destroy our professional lives.

In 1967, the pressure from Canadian psychiatry was becoming so great that I was no longer able to speak freely because of my (prominent) appointments. I asked myself the question, ‘Who are you doing this for? For your patients? Or for the profession that doesn’t even want to look at it?’ And the answer was immediate. I went into private practice in Saskatchewan, and then here.

If I’d wanted to make a lot of money, I’d’ve kept my damn mouth shut.

RW: Who are your allies, then? What keeps you motivated?

H: The people. When people hear about what we’re doing, they become very excited and very interested. And when you see a patient who gets well, isn’t that great motivation? It’s fantastic motivation.

RW: What do you think of mainstream psychiatric care today?

H: It’s terrible. They don’t help anyone. In the 1800s, the Quakers developed “Moral Treatment” of the insane. They gave them good food, good shelter, and treated them with kindness and civility. No drugs. No psychotherapy. No psychoanalysis.

Half got well. Isn’t that amazing?

Also, this is the natural recovery rate in India and all these countries where they can’t afford to buy drugs: almost half the patients get well spontaneously. But guess what North America’s recovery rate is today in schizophrenia? It’s 10 percent.

You cannot ever get well if you have to depend upon drugs only. They’re good, but you have to use them cautiously, and in the right dose, and get rid of them as fast you can. They’re dangerous. Our clients are getting fat, their cholesterols and triglycerides are going up, diabetes is going way up. And you can’t be creative on drugs.

RW: Do you feel similar problems have affected our health care system?

H: The whole system is sick. One in two Canadians are sick, if you add up the people with arthritis, senility, addictions, mental illnesses, the diabetes epidemic…

It’s absolutely terrible. I connect it to the fact that the medical schools don’t teach nutrition. Also, they’ve been taken over by Big Pharma.

We had a case in Victoria many years ago where a woman in hospital for six months got scurvy. In hospital!

RW: Do you feel you’ll ultimately win?

H: Yeah. We’re gonna win. Truth eventually wins. It may take too long.

Actually, we’re starting to win now. We’ve got a big clinic in Tokyo. (Israel’s) Ben Gurion University is doing a controlled schizophrenia study like I did in 1952. University of Kansas just created a Chair of Orthomolecular Medicine. The Canadian Medical Association Journal just published a study on intravenous vitamin C that involved four highly prestigious organizations.

So we’re at a transition point. If I live another 4 or 5 years, I’ll see it. I’m really very happy the way it’s moving now.

RW: And how are you feeling physically?

H: I feel great. I could be better. I’m not physically as well as I should be. I’m getting stronger though; I do a lot of work. I have a personal trainer. Calisthenics and balance exercises and things like that. So I can now walk more or less walk correct, whereas four years ago I was developing old man’s gait. I take all the vitamins, 50 pills a day. The last time I got a cold was 50 years ago.

And of course I find life very exciting. My frustration stirs me up, so I’m always fighting.


Originally published in Focus, August 2006.

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  1. Ona Evans December 5, 2006 at 10:14 am

    GREAT interview!

    Last year I was diagnosed with PYROLURIA a severe vitamin deficiency:
    B6 (pyridoxyl – 5 – phospate)
    Aracadonic Acid (Omega-6)

    Within 4 weeks all my symptoms and previous medical diagnosis went away!

    Orthomolecular medicine really works!

    45 pills a day, but in GREAT health! :o)

    Thanks for the interview.

  2. Rob Wipond December 5, 2006 at 3:01 pm

    Wow, that’s terrific. I’d never actually heard that term before, even from Hoffer! But I just looked it up and sure enough, pyroluria is a diagnostic category linked to him. Interesting! Were you experiencing a lot of psychological symptoms, too, or just physical ones? If psychological, what did it feel like, and what did it feel like to go through the transition when the supplements started working?

  3. REBECCA January 8, 2007 at 1:11 am


  4. scott edward February 21, 2007 at 11:41 am

    Thank you for the informative Interview with Abram Hoffer. He is a trailblazer in Canada who will be held up in the light of truth and honoured even if it has taken so long. I am a young man of 33 and
    practice a healthy lifestyle supplemented by orthomolecular approach which is just a common sense thing if you have an open mind and are connected with our nature. Peace and Love

  5. Martha July 2, 2007 at 2:40 pm

    Thank you Dr. Hoffer. Because of TV interview you did nearly 30 years ago, my mother was able to stop taking antiphyschotic drugs after a diagnosis of schizophrenia.

  6. A. Hoffer July 2, 2007 at 5:29 pm

    Congratulations to those who wrote to you for their intelligence in seeking orthomolecular help for their problems. I do consider it common sense to seek treatment which is both preventive and therapeutic, which is safe and which not only deals with so many of these problems but also extends a healthy and productive life. We have to distribute this message widely so that more Canadians take advantage of this advanced form of health maintenance and depend much less on toxic drugs.It is also much more cost effective.

    A. HOffer PhD, MD(retired),FRCP(C),RNCP

  7. Rob Wipond July 2, 2007 at 8:30 pm

    Thank you for your comments Scott, Martha and of course Dr. Hoffer!

    For those interested, Dr. Hoffer can be reached through his Orthomolecular Vitamin Information Centre work in Victoria, the link is here:

    The main link to ongoing orthomolecular work is here


  8. Ray November 13, 2007 at 10:56 pm

    Yes orthomolecular medicine is the way.I hope there will be a change in the coming years as Dr.Hoffer proclaims it.

    Greetings from germany;)

  9. sandra May 6, 2008 at 7:17 pm

    Thanks very much Dr. Hoffer – your articles, your interviews were very fulfilling for me, and you’re absolutely right, “People that read about Orthomolecular become very excited about it” and that’s the point I’m at – I cannot wait to start this process on my husband who has been diagnosed with Cronic Schizophrenia who has been in and out of hospital so many times due to the fact that they would keep him there for a few days on medication only – with no other research on him whatsoever and was sent home – end of story, just because he was no threat to himself or to his family. Thanks for all of your research in Orthomolecular – you have made me very happy, finally there’s a person that understands everything that we have been dealing with…..Thanks very much!!!!

  10. rob May 22, 2008 at 5:49 pm

    Thank you for your comments, Sandra, and best of luck to you and your husband. FYI, Dr. Hoffer probably doesn’t follow this forum regularly, but he can be reached through his current consulting practice:

  11. sandy July 19, 2008 at 2:36 pm

    I have a realtive who has been thru hell and back he has no money and been ill 15 years several suicide atempts diagnosis changes all the time ended up with Schizophrenia. He is on a ton of does one help him? The testing is too expensive as are the suppliments. In Otario Canada you know how doctors are they will no listen….so what are the options for a poor sick person in this country are there any?

  12. Rob Wipond July 19, 2008 at 8:29 pm

    Yes, Sandy, it’s tragic that we don’t have more financial support for ‘alternative treatments’ (read: treatments that can actually help people).

    That said, sooooo much of it has to do with the ‘patient’ becoming self-empowered, even if he/she is getting really good help. Does your relative ever want to live a different kind of life? If so, then there are lots of books, people, therapies, resources of other kinds that aren’t so expensive which can help. Without that desire, it is very difficult for anything to truly help.

    By the way, has your relative been checked by a legit MD for any of the possible underlying physical causes, e.g. cardiovascular disease, nutrient deficiencies, etc? Even though some 10-30% of psychiatric emergencies have been linked to such physical causes, once people get on the “psychiatric problem” track, it’s often the case that they’re never checked for even the most obvious physical problems which might be affecting things. I knew someone who was treated for depression for ten years, then when the symptoms were bad enough, a good MD said, hmm, that sounds more like a brain tumour than a psychiatric problem. He decided to examine her, but by then it was too late; she died of that brain tumour.

  13. Carew October 31, 2008 at 4:35 pm

    While Dr. Hoffer may have helped some, he sure didn’t help me. His treatment of megadoses of vitamins to treat my clinical depression were about as useful as prescribing jelly beans. He cost me about 2 years of my life as I languished in and out of a depression I couldn’t shake. My final bout of depression resulted in seriously considering suicide so I went to my GP and he prescribed prozac which may have saved my life. Had Hoffer done this originally I would have snapped out of my depression after thirty days instead of two years. I guess Dr. Hoffer clings to his beliefs regarding megavitamins regardless of the evidence. There was a good reason my GP was reluctant to refer me to Dr. Hoffer. I just wish I had listened to him.

  14. Rob Wipond October 31, 2008 at 5:06 pm

    Thanks for your thoughts, Carew. I’m quite sure Dr. Hoffer’s treatments don’t work for everybody, but I’ve spoken to many who would say he “saved my life” in the same way you claim Prozac saved yours. The most responsive have been those who combined the vitamins with fairly substantial dietary improvements — did he not prescribe those for you? In any case, I’d say the lesson is, everyone needs to take ultimate responsibility for their own well-being, find out what works for them and their needs, and not simply rely on what “experts” tell them.

    Incidentally, scientifically and statistically speaking, there’s no more evidence that Prozac should have helped you than jelly beans.

  15. Sherry December 1, 2008 at 12:57 pm

    My son also tried the niacin and Vit C for scitzophrenia.. 18000 Miligrams of niacin 1000 Vitamin C.Had high hopes but no success. Did the food allergy testing as well. ALL of it. So disapointing when you are searching for something to help your loved one.

  16. […] eventually became home to the pioneering work of psychiatrist Dr. Abram Hoffer, whom CMM has written about before. Hoffer and Dr. Humphrey Osmond were amongst the first psychiatrists anywhere to work with the […]

  17. Follow the link above for news about two new studies on vitamin treatments.

  18. Carew January 26, 2009 at 9:51 pm

    Rob, the one dietary suggestion Hoffer had was to quit drinking milk, so I did. To this day I drink a lot more fruit juice than I do milk so I have traded increased calcium for increased vitamin C. You said that “everyone needs to take ultimate responsibility for their own well-being, find out what works for them and their needs, and not simply rely on what “experts” tell them.” In other words, if Hoffer (or anyone else) is incompetent (which i’m quite certain he is) then it’s not his fault because suddenly it’s up to the individual to look after themselves, not Hoffer. He is completely absolved of all responsibility. How convenient. His incompetence extended my suffering substantially because he lacked the basic humility to simply pass me off to another psychiatrist after my repeated admissions to the psych ward. It’s amazing i’m even here to talk about it. It’s little wonder the medical community has never embraced his ideas in spite of his extraordinary stubbornness. Sherry is further proof. The thing even sadder than Hoffer is the number of people who i’m certain have killed themselves under his “care”.

  19. Rob Wipond January 26, 2009 at 10:42 pm

    Carew: I’m skeptical of part of your story, frankly. Hoffer writes and speaks endlessly on all sorts of eating habits and nutrition issues, so it’s difficult to believe that with anyone he would have nothing more to say than ‘quit drinking milk’.

    In any case, just because someone cannot “cure” you of whatever ails you does not by definition make him or her “incompetent”. Hoffer in my experience is usually very up front with what his rationales are for most of his suggestions, so anyone is free to evaluate and test them based on their own standards. The same cannot be said for most of mainstream psychiatry. The phrase “method of action is unknown” peppers the clinical pharmacologies for most popular psychiatric drugs, and that is also their standard line now around electro-convulsive therapy. So, as a patient under most psychiatrists, you are essentially an object of blind experimentation with highly toxic treatments.

    In that context, I hear you saying that you do not want to accept any responsibility for your own well being. Instead, you want to hold others responsible. That’s your prerogative, but I wonder why you don’t see how dangerous that can be as a prescriptive approach towards anything at all in life, let alone towards one’s personal mental well being? Would you so much as buy a car saying, “I have absolutely no responsibility here; I will completely rely on this one car salesman here to choose the best car at the best price for me?”

  20. Grant Goodwin January 28, 2009 at 9:18 am


    This is for people like Carew.

    No one, including Dr. Hoffer, your GP , God or anyone else is responsible for your health or your well-being. You, and only you shares that responsibility.
    You sound quite troubled. I would say that your diet is mostly to blame. Or course, your attitude could use a boost.

    I cannot say enought to enough people about the great deeds Dr. Hoffere has done for me. I know in my heart I would have been a vegetable or dead twenty years ago were it not for his wisdom, direction and understanding.

    He makes it very clear that one size does not fit all. Different people require different methods.

    As for Prozac, I also take it; not necessarily because I want to, but because my body is presently functioning best with it AT THIS TIME! I look forward to getting into better shape so I will no longer need any medication.
    That is why I know I must be responsible and make choices and live with the responsibility of these choices.

    My advice to you is to do the same. Sometimes the truth is bittersweet. We consume much too much in sweets, sugar, etc. So quit bitching.
    Abram Hoffer did not take away two years of your life. We both know who did.

  21. unityemissions February 4, 2009 at 12:39 am

    Dr. Hoffer. I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart. Your dedication has led to many people becoming well from serious afflictions, including myself.

    I have severe Pyroluria and slightly lowered histamine levels. I take b1, b2, b3, b5, b6, vitamin c & e, zinc, manganese, magnesium, and borage oil daily.

    Without this I would still be psychotic, suffer from insomnia, and probably would have entered an institution eventually.


    Brandon Chapman

  22. Carew May 27, 2009 at 6:31 am

    Rob, I should have been more specific. Just about the only thing I REMEMBER Hoffer saying was to lay off the milk since it has been close to 20 years since I last saw him so of course I don’t remember everything he said. I believe he also denigrated sugar. I’ve already explained exactly how he was incompetent but you obviously didn’t understand it so i’m not going to repeat myself. You’re also wrong about my failure to take responsibility for my situation. Dr. Hoffer didn’t make me depressed, I did. It was largely (if not completely) my failings that resulted in my becoming depressed and ending up in the puzzle farm so I take full responsibility for the situation I found myself in, however if you think a clinically depressed person is in any position to take responsibility for their own mental health, you have very little understanding of the condition.

    Grant, I think it’s great that Hoffer helped you. There’s obviously others that agree with you here, i’m just not one of them. For some reason you felt it necessary to give me advice even though I wasn’t asking for any. As well, you seemed to think that my recounting my experience with Hoffer was “bitching” so I guess if i don’t have something positive to say I should just shut up then? Is that it? But what about all those people out there that I may help by telling the truth about my experience with Hoffer? Should I still just shut up lest people misconstrue my experience as “bitching”? Sorry, but as long as I am telling the truth, I vehemently disagree. I’m also curious about how you got a prescription for prozac since as I recall, Hoffer didn’t like prescribing such things.

  23. Rob Wipond May 27, 2009 at 5:26 pm

    Carew: I won’t try to speak for Grant or respond to your comments about Grant’s comments. Although, incidentally, Hoffer told me that when practicing he would indeed sometimes prescribe psychiatric drugs. He just preferred to use them as part of an overall process of stabilizing a person and helping the person move towards independence from those drugs.

    I generally try not to ascribe “blame” on anyone for the state of mind anyone might be in, if only because “blame” seems like a needlessly negative word to use when attempting to understand how our minds work. What I think is important for anyone to do — doctors, patients and everyone else alike — is attempt to understand the different elements that come into play towards creating our states of mind. So, when it comes to moving from “depression” towards some other state of mind, I’m suggesting that an important PART of that movement almost always involves coming to better understanding of the DEGREE OF one’s own roles and responsibilities in affecting one’s own well-being. So, while I don’t think anyone is wholly responsible for their own state of mind, it seems to me very dangerous to fail to recognize how important it ALWAYS is to understand that one does indeed usually have many ways of influencing one’s own state of mind, whether one is feeling depressed or joyful.

    You are free to doubt my degree of personal expertise in experiences of extreme states of consciousness. However, I would point you to the very large “patient/consumer/survivor empowerment” movement as evidence that many people who have been diagnosed with mental health conditions have found it tremendously helpful to take on more responsibility for their own well-being.

  24. Rob Wipond May 29, 2009 at 3:23 am

    Dr. Abram Hoffer died on May 27, 2009.

  25. Carew May 30, 2009 at 7:39 am

    Rob, I don’t know what “mental health conditions” you are talking about with patients taking “on more responsibility for their own well-being” but I was talking about clinical depression. If you knew ANYTHING about clinical depression you would know that it is defined by overwhelming apathy and lethargy-hardly the type of condition conducive to some pro-active attempt to get well.

    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. “We’re at a transition point. If I live another four or five years, I’ll see it.” I know of no such transition within the medical or psychiatric communities. In fact, Hoffer’s research has been continuously and overwhelmingly discredited which tells me we just witnessed the demise of a sad old man who was as stubborn as he was incompetent. Hopefully, the failed orthomolecular school of psychiatry will die with him.

  26. Rob Wipond May 30, 2009 at 5:19 pm

    Carew: Do you notice that your whole argument here relies entirely on your absolute confidence in sticking to a fixed conclusion about the entire personal life of someone whom you’ve never even met?

    I submit to you that you do not need to even have enough energy to get out of bed in order to be able to attain insight into and stop certain narrow-minded, self-enclosing, energy-wasting thought patterns which signficantly contribute to making a depression-experience seemingly insoluble.

    Actually, the benefits of most of Hoffer’s general approach to dealing with psychological problems, including nutrition, social supports, physical health and exercise, and self-exploration, were long ago substantiated. But you’re quite right — the mainstream psychiatric establishment still mocks such approaches.

  27. Carew June 10, 2009 at 7:43 pm

    Rob, I have no idea what you are talking about with this; “Do you notice that your whole argument here relies entirely on your absolute confidence in sticking to a fixed conclusion about the entire personal life of someone whom you’ve never even met?” My opposition to Hoffer was based entirely on my experience of being his patient for a few years-years I lost wallowing in a depression I couldn’t shake while he stubbornly refused to refer me to another psychiatrist. If Hoffer’s approach has been substantiated (not “proven” mind you, just “substantiated”) as you claim, then why has his orthomolecular approach been overwhelmingly rejected by the medical community? I’m not saying mainstream medicine never makes mistakes but the scientific method they use is quite logical. As for many of the other things he espoused regarding diet, introspection, exercise and social support, those are things i’d bet most kids understand before they enter high school.

    Rob, have you ever been clinically depressed? It really doesn’t sound like it based on all your intellectualizing. In fact, It doesn’t sound like you have any idea of what it’s like to actually be depressed.

  28. Rob Wipond June 10, 2009 at 8:16 pm

    Carew: Connect the last paragraph and the first sentence of your most recent post. That answers your question about the point I was trying to make. The only way you can be so firm in your confidence on some of these issues is by assuming that I can’t possibly understand anything about “clinical depression”. So I then directed you in an earlier post to a vast movement of people, and you summarily declared that none of them could possibly understand depression either.

    So if you ever become willing to concede that maybe, just maybe, there might be some people who do know something about “clinical depression” out there who do not agree with you on some of these key points we’re discussing, then maybe you and I can have a truly useful discussion about depression, and about my own experiences with extreme states of consciousness.

    As for the scientific issues you raise… Yes, that’s right, many of Hoffer’s ideas are actually so scientific and logical that a high school student should know them. So why are we campaigning instead to teach high school kids about the importance of taking psych meds? And actually, Hoffer’s ideas have not been overwhelmingly rejected by the medical community at all. His niacin treatment for cholesterol is now a standard part of the medical toolbox, and a recent CMAJ study suggested more studies should be done for vitamin C in cancer treatments. I could go on. Hoffer told me that virtually all of his patients had been referred to him by medical doctors in this community. However, it is the mainstream PSYCHIATRIC community which still overwhelming rejects Hoffer. And mainstream psychiatry, I’m sorry to have to tell you, has very little use for the scientific method. I suggest you review the clinical pharmacologies for many of the most common psychiatric drugs to see how many are described “method of action unknown”. And review the scientific literature on diagnosis tools, and you’ll see not a single one has actually been verified — that is to say, there is not one scientifically verified method for diagnosing “clinical depression”, “schizophrenia”, “bipolar” or any other psychiatric illness, let alone for “treating” these “illnesses” which cannot be scientifically detected.

    “… the goal of validating these syndromes and discovering common etiologies has remained elusive. Despite many proposed candidates, not one laboratory marker has been found to be specific in identifying any of the DSM-defined syndromes… With regard to treatment, lack of treatment specificity is the rule rather than the exception.” –p.xviii, A Research Agenda for DSM-V , American Psychiatric Association (2002).

  29. Carew June 12, 2009 at 7:56 pm

    I will proceed with the conversation once you answer my question. Have you ever been diagnosed with clinical depression?

  30. Carew June 23, 2009 at 7:23 pm

    I’m pretty sure no answer IS an answer, and the answer is no.

  31. Rob Wipond June 23, 2009 at 8:42 pm

    My answer, one more time, is simply that I do not see that particular issue as in any way important to the broader discussion. In fact, I think it is a pointless and dangerous diversion from the discussion, because attaching importance to that issue implies deep “buy-in” to a vast set of unproven assumptions. But for you, it’s evidently crucial.

  32. Carew July 2, 2009 at 6:05 am

    You are absolutely incapable of admitting you have never been depressed. ALL you do is evade the question but whether or not you’ve been depressed IS crucial and i’ll tell you why-because you’ve talked about depression a lot here yet you have no experience with it. ALL you have is a head full of ideas of the way people SHOULD behave and the things they SHOULD do but I can tell you from experience that to be clinically depressed is to have no interest or drive to do much of anything and because you have never been depressed you can’t open up about what it’s like, so instead you intellectualize from atop a pedestal of perfect mental health. In my experience the best help comes from those that have walked the walk instead of just talking the talk which is precisely what you do. Your ability to engage in semantic arguments and avoidance at answering questions also makes me think you should consider a career in politics.

  33. Rob Wipond July 2, 2009 at 5:13 pm

    Look, Carew, I’m only going to try to explain this to you one more time. You don’t know me personally at all, and your current approach to this dialogue is making you seem like the last person I would ever want to really open up to (particularly in a public setting like my blog comments forum) about my own deepest personal experiences, feelings and perspectives on myself. You’re not even trying to engage in an actual dialogue with someone you’re treating respectfully as an equal, like I am trying to do with you. All you’re doing here is trafficking in assumptions and insults.

    Further, when I respond to your apparent central concern and point out to you that, regardless of what my own experience might or might not be, there is an entire social movement and peer support networks out there comprised of people who’ve been diagnosed with depression, schizophrenia or other so-called “mental illnesses” who are saying many of the same things I (or Hoffer) am saying, you’ve simply ignored and dismissed that. Maybe you don’t want to ask, so I’ll just tell you: Search on “MindFreedom”, for example, if you want to begin to research and connect with some of those types of people and organizations.

  34. Carew July 5, 2009 at 7:16 pm

    There’s little question the reason why you’ve never opened up about being clinically depressed is because you have nothing to open up ABOUT. I have however opened up here about what it’s like to be depressed and got lectured from you on the way I SHOULD have behaved and things I SHOULD have done which tells me you have little, if any experience with depression. Either that or you are just incapable of being honest. Your persistent evasion suggests the latter and due to your total inability to be honest I can only operate from assumptions. I would argue that the assumption I made was quite logical though based on the way you steadfastly changed the subject about whether or not you’ve ever been depressed. Instead of just answering the question you provided more and more convoluted rhetoric. But again, you feel the need to lecture me by telling me about “mindfreedom” because you seem to think I need to learn more about what you and Hoffer believe but as I explained, Hoffer’s methods completely failed me and have been overwhelmingly rejected by the psychiatric community, and you aren’t even capable of the slightest honesty on this board so why would I research the issue further? Please give me a reason. Depression is not the same thing as insanity.

  35. Ha August 3, 2009 at 9:43 pm

    Perhaps both Carew and Rob could each use a little extra Niacin, vitamin C, zinc and, while they’re at it, Prozac, in their diets right about now!

  36. Rob Wipond August 3, 2009 at 10:24 pm

    The exchange did not seem to me to be producing something of enduring public value for my blog, so I continued the discussion with Carew ‘privately’, via email.

  37. Chris April 18, 2012 at 3:25 pm

    ” So we’re at a transition point. If I live another 4 or 5 years, I’ll see it. I’m really very happy the way it’s moving now.”

    So it’s now 6 years later and nothing has hapenned like he expected. Shocker!

  38. Rob Wipond April 20, 2012 at 6:18 pm

    Well, I find it hard to hold it against him that, even at his age after everything he’d been through, he was still managing to be optimistic and positive about possible constructive scientific collaboration.

  39. Chagai Dubrawsky M.D. January 1, 2013 at 7:50 am

    In reading this blog,I realized that Dr. Hoffer has now reached his dream.
    Dr. Hoffer was persistance in his ambition to proove that Niacin,is the”Miracle Cure” for any
    disease know to exist.Lacking the knowledge of:How Innate Immunity operate within the body of the Living Organism,his effort to discover this secret of life fell short.He was not the only one,that express their frustration,in that matter.
    In 2001,the late:C.A. Janeway,express his frustration,stating that the discovery of this secret,should be considered
    :The invention of the century.(1)
    I discovered,the mechanism of operation of the Innate Immunity,H.D.L.(High Density Lipoproteins) and :Niacin-
    Nicotinic Acid(in Holistic dose of 100 mg. only.
    I invented new medicine:”affordable Molecular Medicine”(AKA Unitarian Molecular Medicine)
    I am writing a book-textbook style on this aubject.The leading article in this book is titled:”The Foriegn Molecule
    Theory.Idea and Method in Health and Longevity.”.The article was submitted for publication at:”Outskirt Press”Pub.
    House(Self publishing).It was accepted for publication after the reviewer noted the high scientific value of the article.
    At my circle of family and friends,application of Niacin,nicotinic acid,resulted in enthusiasm.
    Since my start with niacin,my cognition is heading north.Same for all the circle of my friends.
    Taking the Niacin Nicotinic acid100mg.(Sublingual,with a bite of food),daily at bedtime,I am yet to experience any side effects including the “Flush”.
    At present I am trying to intoduce the Niacin into the transportation industry mainly aviation.I am trying to solve the
    issue of pilot fatigue resulting in pilot errors.
    I hope to connect with followers of Dr. Hoffer legacy.
    Ref: C.A. Janeway. Future directions of research in Immunobiology. Immunobiology 5,textbook,Pp.608.Gaarland
    Publishing 2001

  40. Rob Wipond January 8, 2013 at 8:55 pm

    Hi Chagai,
    I’d suggest contacting the journal he founded, the Journal of Orthomolecular Medicine

    or the centre he founded,

    Rob Wipond

  41. Bruce Geidel January 8, 2015 at 2:40 am

    Either is or isn’t true. Did Dr. Hoffer open mindedly permit his theories about mega- vitamins and other natural methods be tested by scientific methods and clinical trials? Was Dr. Hoffer sincere in his beliefs and did her really care about the well being of his patients; or was he nothing but a quack and charlatan? Did Dr. Hoffer sincerely believe in alternative medical approaches to mental illness, or was he just a scam artist full of fabrications?

  42. Rob Wipond January 8, 2015 at 3:49 am

    Here are my answers to your questions, Bruce: Dr. Hoffer repeatedly pushed and advocated and hoped aloud that others would more rigorously test his methods in clinical trials. He edited a scientific journal for many years where he published such studies, but generally my own impression is that through his many years of political fights against the mainstream psychiatric establishment, he had lost some of his own vitality to fight that fight, and preferred to spend most of his own time helping individual patients. He practised privately until very close to his death. He very much cared about patients, from what I could see. I spoke with patients who spoke eloquently and passionately about how he had helped them; I spoke with other patients who shrugged and said his methods didn’t work for them. I have little doubt that he sincerely believed in many of his alternative approaches; other aspects of his approaches I think he regarded at times as experimental or exploratory.

    In my estimation, Hoffer was actually quite scientifically rooted, methodical and in many ways quite conservative in his overall beliefs and approaches with respect to the practice of psychiatry. It is actually a marvel to me that some people like yourself seem to think of him as a wild “quack”. On what basis?

  43. Stavros Bolonakis June 9, 2015 at 7:11 am

    I hear the arguments that Say Hoffman was a quack because his treatments didn’t work for everyone.
    I seem to remember reading somewhere that Hoffman’s success rate was somewhere above 60 per cent, and the success rate of normal pharmacological treatment was about 10 per cent.
    I could give countless examples of people I have spoken to over the years who have either had treatment by a psychiatrist or know someone who has, and the treatment has either worked, but the side effects far outweigh the benefits, (in other words, the cure has been worse than the illness), or the treatment didn’t work at all.

  44. Barbara o'brien August 31, 2015 at 5:09 am

    My daughter is 52yrs old and after all these yrs she is “”stabilized”” on the old ‘haldol’ depakoate klonopin etc. she is very obese, and exists. I can relate so well what dr hoofer says about our new scientific whatever approach to psychiatry. My sister suffered from schizophrenia also, so that’s why I can relate so well when he talks about the 50,s. My poor mother! Well I’ll give niacin a try

  45. Rob Wipond August 31, 2015 at 1:26 pm

    I’m sorry to hear that. I shudder to think of how many people’s lives are being destroyed by these drugs, in the name of “stabilizing” them. By the time I knew him, Hoffer still believed strongly in the helpful impacts of niacin for some people, and took many supplements per day himself, but had also become much more broad in his emphasis on overall good eating and exercise as part of the orthomolecular approach in psychiatry.

  46. Bob Gandini January 11, 2016 at 3:17 am

    Dr. Hoffer saved my life with his niacin therapy for schizophrenia.

  47. Rob Wipond January 31, 2016 at 5:55 pm

    Hi Bob, did it work for you so well that you feel it was definitely specific action of the niacin? Or do you feel there were other factors involved as well?

  48. Wyandotte February 11, 2017 at 7:43 pm

    Has anyone here ever heard the expression, “All diseases can be cured – but not all people”?

    Might I change that to: “All diseases can be cured – but not all the same way.”

    Some people will never be cured. But from what I read, Hoffer’s treatments had a higher rate of success than orthodox ones.

  49. diosa October 25, 2020 at 10:46 am

    El Dr. Hoffer y su niacina está muy bien en plan generalizado. Yo de momento no he leído nada de él sobre los síntomas negativos de la esquizo, con lo cuál no me sirve para nada su niacina.

  50. Rob Wipond October 25, 2020 at 3:52 pm

    Yo no he leido nada. Creo que es por eso, en parte por esta razón, que Hoffer sugirió una buena nutrición, otros suplementos y también ejercicio, etc. I have also not read anything by Hoffer about negative symptoms, though his early books may discuss them. But overall by the end of his life he was much more holistic in his approaches.

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