Remembering Dr. Abram Hoffer
Abram Hoffer, M.D. – A Biography
Born November 11, 1917 on a farm in Hoffer, Saskatchewan, Abram Hoffer attended a one-room schoolhouse and studied on horseback, eventually graduating from the University of Saskatchewan (BSA, MSA), the University of Minnesota (PhD) and the University of Toronto (MD). Dr. Hoffer specialized in psychiatry, was director of psychiatric research for the Saskatchewan Department of Public Health and associate professor of medicine at the University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon. During this time he carried out groundbreaking research and authored more than 500 peer-reviewed and popular articles, and more than 30 academic monographs and popular books. He challenged the then-dominant view that schizophrenia was as a psychological disorder caused by poor upbringing, and contributed importantly to the formation of the field of neuropsychopharmacology. Dr. Hoffer co-authored research on the genetics of schizophrenia with the renowned geneticist, Ernst Mayer. He co-discovered the first effective lipid-lowering agent, the B vitamin niacin.
He developed a controversial treatment for acute schizophrenia based on the principles of respect, shelter, sound nutrition, appropriate medication and the administration of large doses of certain water-soluble vitamins, in the process carrying out among the first controlled clinical trials in psychiatry. He advanced a plausible biochemical hypothesis to explain the cause of schizophrenia and how niacin and vitamin C could eliminate its symptoms and prevent relapses. Intrigued by the concept of metabolic “models of madness,” he and his research colleagues, notably his close collaborator Humphry Osmond, studied the properties of the hallucinogens and pioneered the use of LSD, which in conjunction with skilled compassionate psychotherapy, was found to be an effective treatment for alcoholism. His work with alcoholism led to a close friendship with Bill W. (William Griffith Wilson), the founder of Alcoholics Anonymous.
He organized a self-help organization for people with schizophrenia, Schizophrenics Anonymous. Participants at SA meetings occasionally exchanged the friendly greeting, “Salutations and hallucinations!” His colleague and friend, the American chemist Linus Pauling, championed the biochemical model for treating schizophrenia that was developed in Saskatchewan and provided a conceptual underpinning for the notion that large doses of certain naturally occurring substances can favorably alter disordered brain biochemistry, coining the term “orthomolecular psychiatry.” Abram Hoffer moved to Victoria in 1976 where he practiced psychiatry for many years, becoming a founding member and president of the Senior Physicians Association of British Columbia. Sometimes criticized from afar for his controversial views, he was beloved by his many patients and close colleagues. He devoted his life to the goal of curing – not palliating – schizophrenia.
Abram Hoffer died in Victoria, BC on May 27, 2009 after a brief illness.
by John Hoffer, MD, PhD
Remembering Dr. Abram Hoffer
originally posted, November 11, 2015
A bram Hoffer was born in Saskatchewan on November 11, 1917. Over his 60-year career as a biochemist, physician, psychiatrist, author and public educator, Dr. Abram Hoffer restored thousands of beautiful minds, co-founded orthomolecular medicine and wrote 36 books. Not long after his books saved my life, I met Dr. Hoffer in person.
From age 17 to 38, my episodes of depression, anxiety and hypomania went undiagnosed and untreated. Finally I sought medical advice, but something went wrong. Prescribed medications did not help. By 1996, after 28 years of symptoms, episodes and problems, I was desperate to find help. One day, another patient suggested the Journal of Orthomolecular Medicine. That unusual word ‘ortho-molecular’ was hard for my depressed brain to understand but I could still read. I learned that ‘ortho’ means ‘to correct’ and ‘molecular’ means ‘the chemistry’.
Encouraged by the concept of restorative care, I read several of Abram Hoffer’s books, applied his advice and recovered. Dr. Hoffer’s clearly-written information explained restorative treatment regimens, renewed my hope and saved my life. After recovering, I became a volunteer for the International Schizophrenia Foundation. Dr. Hoffer encouraged me to share my experiences and introduce orthomolecular medicine to other patients, families and friends.
Dr. Hoffer’s clinical lessons are still important today – lessons about testing and diagnosing carefully to determine the root cause(s) of each patient’s symptoms, planning safe and effective treatments and not being satisfied until each patient recovers enough to get along with his family and community, find work and support himself.
Please remember Dr. Abram Hoffer the remarkable biochemist, researcher, psychiatrist & author who investigated disorders of metabolism, discovered root causes of psychosis and depression, co-founded orthomolecular medicine, developed restorative treatments for schizophrenia and other illnesses, and educated the public – thank you Abram Hoffer!
Robert Sealey, BSc, CA – SEAR Publications