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Abram Hoffer

Abram Hoffer (born 1917) is a Canadian psychiatrist known for his work in the development of biochemically based therapies based on the use of nutrition and vitamins in the treatment of schizophrenia — known as orthomolecular psychiatry. This general approach, known as orthomolecular medicine, includes the use of megavitamins.



Hoffer graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture (Great Distinction) from the University of Saskatchewan in 1938, followed by a Masters Degree in Agriculture (agricultural chemistry) in 1940. He received a Ph.D. in biochemistry from the University of Minnesota in 1944 with research into vitamin content in cereals. Gaining an interest in human nutrition, Hoffer entered medical school, graduating with an MD from the University of Toronto in 1949 and completing his psychiatric training in 1954.[1]

Hoffer was a faculty member of the College of Medicine at the University of Saskatchewan from 1955–67. Hoffer also served as the Director of Psychiatric Research for the Saskatchewan Department of Public Health in Regina from 1950–67.[1] He noted that half the patients housed in the mental hospital were diagnosed as schizophrenics and that the conditions in the mental hospital and the treatment of these patients were poor, and looked for better answers to treat the mentally ill.[2] He used biochemistry and human physiology as an emergent psychiatric research paradigm, and was critical of psychosomatic psychoanalysis and the lack of adequate definition and measurement in psychiatric methodology. Hoffer's theory is known as the adrenochrome hypothesis, which states that schizophrenics lack the proper ability to remove the hallucinogenic metabolite adrenochrome from their brains. He speculated that by using vitamin C to reduce adrenochrome back into adrenaline and using niacin as a methyl acceptor to prevent the conversion of noradrenaline into adrenaline that this would lead to a decrease in the concentration of hallucinogenic adrenochrome in the brain..[3]

By the mid-1960s the psychiatric establishment, moving heavily towards neuroleptic drugs, began to snub Hoffer’s orthomolecular theories and treatments, and refused to publish works favorable to orthomolecular medicine.[4] Subsequently, in 1967 Hoffer resigned his academic and Director positions, entered into private psychiatric practice in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan and created the Journal of Schizophrenia as a means of publishing articles related to orthomolecular psychiatry. After a few name changes over a number of years, this journal eventually became the Journal of Orthomolecular Medicine in 1986.[4] In 1976, Hoffer relocated to Victoria, British Columbia and continued with his private psychiatric practice until his retirement in 2005. Hoffer continues to provide nutritional consultations and also continues as the editor of the Journal of Orthomolecular Medicine.[2]


Working with Humphry Osmond, MD and their scientific teams, Hoffer and Osmond developed the oxidized adrenaline - adrenochrome model of schizophrenia, the Hoffer-Osmond Diagnostic Test (HOD), niacin therapy for schizophrenia, and tests for hallucinogenic indole metabolites.[5]

In attempting to devise a treatment for alcoholism, Hoffer and Osmond did studies with LSD. Theorizing that alcoholics needed to hit bottom before they were willing to stop drinking, Hoffer and Osmond attempted to use LSD to simulate delirium tremens (i.e.: hitting bottom) in alcoholics. Hoffer claimed a 50% success rate with 2000 alcoholics, although he noted that it was more likely the psychedelic experience of LSD rather than simulated delirium tremens that convinced the alcoholics to stop drinking.[6]

Incidental to Hoffer's psychiatric work with immediate release (pure) niacin, he discovered the first successful "anticholesterol" treatment for dyslipidemias.[7] Niacin treatment remains the cholesterol treatment best proven to actually extend life with highly beneficial improvements to HDL, Lp(a), Apolipoprotein B, triglycerides and lipoprotein particle size as well as lowering the general LDL value for several major types of hyperlipidemia,[8] although the time release forms, particularly some of the slower pre-1994 formulations over 2 grams per day, can have potentially serious side effects.[9][10]

Taking note of biochemical abnormalities and serendipitous cancer recoveries among his psychiatric patients, Hoffer worked for several years on the anticancer effects of vitamins particularly the B vitamins and ascorbate. He says this includes treating many hundreds of cancer patients with nutrients with reported success.[11] Hoffer collaborated with Linus Pauling on several aspects of orthomolecular medicine but especially the anticancer actions of vitamin C.


Hoffer's treatment for schizophrenia and theories of orthomolecular medicine remain controversial as they have not been generally accepted by the mainstream medical community as of 2006.[12] An American Psychiatric Association Task Force Report of July 1973 on using niacin in treating schizophrenia claimed both methodological flaws in Hoffer’s early work and other studies which failed to show clear benefit of this therapy.[13] Hoffer and Osmond wrote a lengthy rebuttal to this report, citing many errors, misrepresentations, and biases.[14] However niacin, B6, and ascorbates are still not widely used or recommended in the conventional treatments of schizophrenia.[15] Some other limited studies that did not meet Hoffer's original conditions have also failed to find benefits in use of megavitamin therapy to treat schizophrenia.[16]

As of 2005, orthomolecular psychiatry remains to be adequately tested and independently verified by conventional authoritative bodies. "Controlled studies using the orthomolecular approach have been few. Those that were done were performed in chronic schizophrenia or in populations that included bipolar and schizoaffective patients. Both of these diagnostic groups are not today considered to benefit from the orthomolecular approach. Moreover, some negative studies of high-dose niacin were done in patients who were not otherwise given general counseling for good diet..."[17]

Hoffer stated in the 1950s that such controversy would exist regarding his treatments and that he felt that it would take at least forty years for his methods to become accepted. In a 2006 interview, Hoffer stated that while he felt that current mainstream psychiatric care was “terrible”, he felt that 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.”[2]

Recent scientific research into glutathione transferase, the enzyme that metabolizes oxidized catecholamines such as adrenochrome, has shown this enzyme to be defective in many schizophrenics, especially those suffering from acute episodes.[18][19][20] This fact adds weight to Dr. Hoffer's adrenochrome hypothesis as a defect in glutathione transferase would lead to a buildup of hallucinogenic compounds like adrenochrome in the brains of schizophrenics. As of yet no scientific studies have been conducted on niacin therapy for individual schizophrenics with a mutation in the glutathione transferase gene(s).


  1. ^ a b Hoffer, Abram. Curriculum Vitae. Health WorldOnline.
  2. ^ a b c Rob Wipond. "An interview with Dr. Abram Hoffer", Focus, August 2006. 
  3. ^ Hoffer, Abram. Vitamins and Minerals Help Fight Off Diseases of The Mind and The Body. Life extension magazine.
  4. ^ a b Hoffer, Abram. Journal of Orthomolecular Medicine History.
  5. ^ Eisner, Bruce (February 11 2004). Humphrey Osmond Inventor of the Word "Psychedelic" Dies.
  6. ^ Hoffer, Abram (1970). Treatment of Alcoholism with Psychedelic Therapy.
  7. ^ Altschul R; Hoffer A; Stephen JD. (1955). "Influence of Nicotinic Acid on Serum Cholesterol in Man.". Arch Biochem Biophys 54: 558–559.
  8. ^ The Coronary Drug Project Research Group. (1975). "Clofibrate and niacin in coronary heart disease.". J Amer Med Assoc.: 231:360-381..
  9. ^ Parsons, William (2003). Cholesterol Control Without Diet, Revised Edition, 181-211. 
  10. ^ Lifespan's A - Z Health Information Library - Cholesterol (2006).
  11. ^ Hoffer's Home Page - Orthomolecular Treatment of Cancer. (December 26 1999).
  12. ^ Bartlett, Stephen (July 12 2000). Orthomolecular Therapy.
  13. ^ Lipton M and others (1973). "Task Force Report on Megavitamin and Orthomolecular Therapy in Psychiatry". American Psychiatric Association.
  14. ^ Hoffer A., Osmond H. (August 1976). "Megavitamin Therapy in reply to The American Psychiatric Association Task Force Report on Megavitamin and Orthomolecular Therapy in Psychiatry" (PDF). Canadian Schizophrenia Foundation.
  15. ^ Complementary Schizophrenia Treatments (2004).
  16. ^ Vaughan K.; McConaghy N. (1999). "Megavitamin and dietary treatment in schizophrenia: a randomised, controlled trial". Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry 33 (1): 84.
  17. ^ (2005) "The Treatment of Acute Schizophrenia With High Dose Niacinmide Plus Ascorbate Plus Pyridoxine Plus Centrum Forte Vs. Centrum Forte Only as an Add-On to Risperidone and Dietary Counseling (2005-2009 trial)". Beersheva Mental Health Center.
  18. ^ (2003) "A possible association between an insertion/deletion polymorphism of the NQO2 gene and schizophrenia.". Psychiatric genetics.
  19. ^ (2001) "Glutathione S-transferase M1 gene deletion may be associated with susceptibility to certain forms of schizophrenia.". Biochemistry Biophysics Res Commun.
  20. ^ (2004) "Glutathione S-transferase M1 polymorphism may contribute to schizophrenia in the Korean population.". Psychiatric genetics.
  21. ^ Saul A, Hoffer A. "Bibliography of the Nutrition-Related Publications of Abram Hoffer, M.D."
  22. ^ Saul A, Hoffer A. Bibliography of the Nutrition-Related Publications of Abram Hoffer, M.D.. (More complete book list). webite accessed online, 22 Dec 2007


Hoffer has authored over 500 scientific articles[21] and over 35 books.[22]

  • Hoffer A (1960). Chemical Basis of Clinical Psychiatry. Thomas, Springfield, IL.. 
  • Hoffer A (1962). Niacin therapy in psychiatry (American lecture series). Thomas. 
  • Hoffer A (1992 (1966, 1978)). How to Live With Schizophrenia, 2nd ed., revised, Citadel Press. ISBN 0-8065-1382-9. 
  • Hoffer A (1966). New Hope for Alcoholics. University Books. 
  • Hoffer A (1967). The Hallucinogens. Academic Press. ISBN 0-12-351850-4. 
  • Hoffer A; Osmond H; Kelm H (1975). Hoffer-Osmond Diagnostic Test. Behavior Science Press, Tuscaloosa, AL.. 
  • Hoffer A; Pauling L (2004). Healing Cancer: Complementary Vitamin & Drug Treatments. CCNM Press. ISBN 1-897025-11-4. 
  • Hoffer A (2005). Adventures in psychiatry, the scientific memoirs of dr. Abram Hoffer. KOS Publishing Inc.. ISBN 0-9731945-6-1. 
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Abram_Hoffer". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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