LIFE EXTENSION MAGAZINE:
Vitamins and Minerals Help Fight Off Diseases of The Mind and The Body
Interview with Abram Hoffer, M.D., Ph.D.
Abram Hoffer, M.D., Ph.D., is an internationally recognized physician, author, medical researcher and pioneer in the use of vitamins and nutrients to treat disease. His research focusing on the use of vitamin megadoses as a schizophrenia treatment in the 1950’s led to some startling observations.
Patients suffering from schizophrenic-related psychosis were able to lead normal lives after high-dose vitamin therapy. These schizophrenic patients had failed all conventional treatments, but most of them completely recovered after several months on Dr. Hoffer’s therapy.
Life Extension Foundation: How did you get started with your research into orthomolecular medicine?
Dr. Abram Hoffer: In 1950, I had just finished my general hospital internship, and I was interested in doing some research in psychiatry. I became excited about psychosomatic medicine, which was then very popular. I approached the government of Saskatchewan, and asked them if they had a job for me. After a few months, they said yes. I didn’t have any psychiatric training, but the condition was that I would take the training while on the job. My mission was to start a research program in psychiatry.
At that time, we were desperately short of psychiatrists, so the government of Saskatchewan hired a number of psychiatrists to join us. One of these was Humphrey Osmond. He brought with him a student who was a young colleague: Dr. John Smythies. These doctors had been studying mescaline, an akaloid drug that induces the [hallucinogenic] experiences in normal volunteers, which is present in peyote. They had concluded that the experience was similar to that induced by schizophrenia on normal people. Schizophrenic patients have many of the symptoms that are present in normal people when they take mescaline, or even LSD.
Drs. Osmond and Smythies had also observed that mescaline has a [biochemical] structure similar to adrenaline. They had developed the hypothesis that perhaps in the body of the schizophrenic, there might be a compound somehow related to adrenaline, which had the properties of mescaline. This was a very exciting hypothesis.
In 1950, there was no treatment for schizophrenia. Insulin coma [therapy] was disappearing; electric shock treatment was being used, but even when the results were good, they were always temporary, and you’d have to repeat it. Eventually it wouldn’t work anymore. We were hopeless. Half our patients in the mental hospital were chronic schizophrenics, and we had no treatment, no drugs, nothing.
So, we decided to look at this hypothesis very carefully. I began to study all the known hallucinogens of that day. There weren’t that many. One day, when I was jotting down the formula of these compounds, it suddenly struck me. They were all indoles. An indole is a chemical with a double ring. This made it much easier. If I tell the best biochemist in the world to search the schizophrenic body for a compound that causes schizophrenia, he’ll think you’re nuts. Of the 50,000 compounds or more, how many psychiatrists are willing to spend their whole lifetime chasing one, when they haven’t got a lead? But when you’re talking about indoles, you bring it down to about five or six [compounds], which makes it a lot easier.
Also, Dr. Osmond had observed oxidized adrenaline [in his research]. When some of their asthmatic patients took this discolored adrenaline, they also had some [of the same] reactions that they would get from mescaline.