Getting Played (Again)

Getting Played (Again)

It’s unsettling to think of all the people who are suffering from schizophrenia who are not receiving the vitamin supplement that could help them control their deplorable condition.

In the e-Alert “Getting Played” (1/2/07), I told you how patients with schizophrenia are typically deficient in vitamin B-3 (also known as niacin). In some cases, patients respond quite favorably to high doses of the vitamin.

When I sent you that e-Alert, HSI Panelist Allan Spreen, M.D., was out of town, but upon his return he sent me this additional information, along with a fascinating personal story:

“The link between B-3 and schizophrenia is not well known except for those in complementary medicine. The response, however, can be remarkable, though it can take as much as 30,000 milligrams (30 grams) of B-3 in difficult cases.

“Dr. Abram Hoffer, MD, PhD, is the master of this, and has been since the 1950’s. He discovered that Canadian POW’s from WWII (who were held in the ‘black hole of Calcutta’) all came back with mental problems, and all had what to him looked like symptoms of pellagra (B-3 deficiency). He theorized that their abominable diet during the war ruined an enzyme that utilized B-3, mandating (now) far higher doses to get the same effect that a few mg would do in a normal person.

“Each POW became normal, but could not discontinue the treatment. They were ‘successfully treated,’ but not ‘cured.’

“Hoffer later treated my sister, a schizophrenic who had been written off and permanently institutionalized. My parents were told she’d never be a useful, productive member of society. She ended up graduating law school and passing the bar.

“Hoffer found that the hallucinations disappeared when the patient was properly treated. However, long-term schizophrenics tend to acclimate to their hallucinatory world, and then need counseling to acquaint them with the new ‘normal’ (which to them is abnormal, though it now agrees with our perceptions).”

As I mentioned in last week’s e-Alert, Dr. Hoffer’s book “Vitamin B-3 and Schizophrenia: Discovery, Recovery, Controversy” can be found on