Orthomolecular Dr. Hoffer

Dr Abram Hoffer is the dean of orthomolecular psychiatry. He is the first, the starting point, the base, for anyone who wants to learn more about what schizophrenia is and how best to treat it using vitamin support. Orthomolecular is a term coined by Nobel laureate Dr Linus Pauling. It means “the right molecule”. It is using supplemements to correct biochemical imbalances.

Dr Hoffer is still going strong at over 90 years old. I like Dr. Hoffer. I wrote him a fan letter in 2005 after Chris had been on his recommended combination of niacinimide (vitamin B3), vitamin C, B-complex, omega 3 and zinc for only a few weeks. The changes in Chris after such a short time were noticeable, despite the fact he had been on meds for over a year. He was more focused and engaged. His skin became clearer. His hair, which was becoming alarmingly thin for someone his age, became thicker.

Dr Hoffer’s book, How to Live with Schizophrenia, is a must read. It is positive and upbeat, unlike some other well-known and widely quoted authorities on schizophrenia. It is loaded with good tips and really interesting observations. He respects his patients and learns from them.

I also have been faithfully using his recommended combination of vitamins since 2005. Interestingly, what works for schizophrenia also works to prevent alzheimers/dementia, according to Dr Hoffer. Here, there are a couple of things to keep in mind. The first is the word “prevent”. Once dementia begins, vitamins are ineffective. The closer in age you are to dementia (for all practical purposes in your sixties) you should substitute niacin for niacinimide. If you are in your fifties, you should begin with 3 grams of niacinimide per day and an equal amount of vitamin C (to prevent liver damage), a B complex (to make the other vitamins work more efficiently), and throw in an omega 3 and a zinc or another B vitamin (B-6, B-12). Niacin produces a burning sensation in your body. It is harmless, but nonetheless rather scary if you don’t know what to expect.

I never plan to be without Dr Hoffer’s recommended schizophrenia/dementia vitamins. People laughingly refer to “senior moments”, but in my early fifties I was having trouble focusing. At the time I attributed it to the stress of juggling family and work responsibilities, but I feel now that my brain was tired. After only a few days on the niacinimide formula, I felt on top of my game intellectually. I could push through to complete a complex series of thoughts. I now had intellectual energy whereas before I had little. I began reading more complex books. I began to write my own book. Like Chris, my skin became amazingly clear. My hair grew back its former thickness. I was much calmer.

If you think of holistic health as a pyramid, orthomolecular medicine is the broad base of the pyramid. Proper foods, vitamins and minerals are the building blocks of good health.

Here is Dr Hoffer’s vitamin package, courtesy of the Canadian Schizophrenia Foundation.

SUPPLEMENTS: Vitamin B3 (niacin or niacinamide) 0.5 – 2 grams 3 times daily. Vitamin B6 (for many) 250-500 mg daily. A general B vitamin formula. Vitamin C, 3 or more grams daily. Zinc (gluconate or citrate) 50 mg daily. Manganese 15-30 mg daily (if there is danger of tardive dyskinesia).

The list of therapies

Psychiatrists say that single events can be over-determined. Rather than there being one reason and only one reason for something happening, there can be multiple explanations for a single event. Chris’s current hospitalization is not the result of a single event. The obvious explanation to the well meaning outsider is that he needed his medications.

The less obvious explanations arise from what had been happening in Chris’s life over the months leading up to this crisis. Despite the vitamin support that had worked so well for him before, during and after he stopped his medications, something scary was now happening. He dropped his classes, stopped his voice lessons, rambled frequently off-topic, and tested the patience of his family and friends alike. It had all the hallmarks of a return of his psychosis. Did I mention he was angry? He started to express anger for the first time in his life. He scraped the flesh off his knuckles by driving his fist so hard into the wall.

Chris has yet to offer a definitive explanation as to why this recent crisis has happened. He does say he truly missed his younger brother Taylor, who went away to university about the same time that Chris started to change. My husband and I say that we pushed him too hard to think about returning to university full time. Our expectations likely frightened him. Other people had expectations, too. Chris’s voice teacher encouraged him to fulfill his considerable potential as a vocalist. I believe that Chris is struggling with the implications of what it means to become well.

I remain convinced that this crisis is a necessary passage for Chris. He is on a more solid platform this time around and will continue to grow in health, thanks to the following:

1. Orthomolecular medicine
2. Medication, when necessary, in low doses and for short duration
3. Energy medicine/EFT/Visualizations
4. Assemblage Point shift and shamanic rituals
5. Magnetic therapy
6. Cathartic psychotherapies/e.g. Family Constellation Therapy
7. The Alexander Technique (not a therapy in the standard sense)
8. The Tomatis Method
9. Psychoacoustics and bioharmonic resonance
10. Time and understanding

In the coming days I will discuss these interventions and more.

Well meaning people

The other day a friend said to me, “Rossa, I always tell people the truth and it may not always be what they want to hear, but you know, of course, that Chris will always have problems.” She went on to say that she does know one lady in her sixties who is managing very well on her medications and even was working. The point my friend wanted to put across was that Chris will have fewer problems if I accept the fact that he needs to be on medications.

My friend’s comment speaks volumes. She knows that Chris is currently in the hospital and had been off medications for a year. She is well intentioned, as are all the other people who have come to me recently to say that Chris needs to be on medications. The problem is, to paraphrase Professor Harold Hill, “they don’t know the territory”. They have heard that medications are needed for people with schizophrenia. They haven’t heard or experienced the other side of the debate. They don’t even know there is a debate going on.

I didn’t try to argue with my friend. I know that arguing the point would make me look like I am a mother in denial. I will just continue on my chosen path.

Yes, Chris is in the hospital. Going back into the hospital automatically means medications as the price of admission. I’m not happy about that part. However, I do not view his latest hospitalization as a failure of our holistic interventions. Nor do I see the re-emergence of his problems stemming from being off the medications. This time around the hospital is getting a better product in my son. He is communicative whereas he was almost mute the first time he was hospitalized. He is rational for the most part. He is able to express anger and pain. He is no longer overweight.

The doctors and nurses are seeing a more functional person this time around. I attribute this to the therapies undertaken over the past five years and caring enough about Chris to monitor his daily regime of vitamins and activities.

When well meaning people come to me, I thank them but just sigh and think “they don’t know the territory”.

Who am I? What am I here for? Why you might be interested in what I have to say.

“Who am I and what am I here for” are the fundamental questions of our existence on this planet.

I am Rossa Forbes, a pseudonym for me. I became a new me, a wiser and more focused me, when my oldest son was diagnosed as having schizophrenia. That was six years ago when “Chris” was 19. His diagnosis forced me think about many things in a different way.

My blog is for people who expect more out of recovery than what they are currently achieving.

I was naive when I started on this journey. Over time I became very critical of the medical treatment Chris was receiving when I realized he wasn’t getting better, despite the huge amounts of money being spent. I expected “better”. I expected “well”. Doctors instead spoke about “recovery”. Recovery is such a vague concept. It seems to be associated with quality of life, another term that I abhor when it comes to schizophrenia. Who wants to be spoken of in terms of “quality of life” when you are young and your whole life is ahead of you?

BS (before schizophrenia) I thought life was pretty good. I still do, but it is much more meaningful. Schizophrenia is not like other illnesses. I do not really consider it an illness, so if you are looking for advice on medications and how to deal with schizophrenia as a brain disease, this blog is not for you. I do consider schizophrenia a “problem”. Something isn’t working well for the individual and it is certainly a huge problem for the family members. Problems can be solved, however. They take time and effort. Nobody said this was easy. A brain disease, on the other hand, sounds final. And, of course, expensive medications are prescribed for this brain disease. These medications also have rather serious side effects.

While I hesitate to even use the term “schizophrenia” in this blog, it is useful shorthand for a collection of characteristics related to someone who is having difficulties with living.

The purpose of my blog is to do the following and more:

1. Introduce you to holistic therapies that my son underwent (I tried most of them, too.)

2. Explain why a holistic approach is better than a medication only approach. Holistic allows that low doses of medication can be useful and often necessary, but should not be considered a long term strategy.

3. Stimulate a positive and even humorous perspective about the condition

4. Encourage you to think that the expected outcome of this condition is to achieve total health

5. Demonstrate that writers, artists, poets often have a better understanding of schizophrenia than your doctor does

6. Establish a platform for the book that I am writing (feedback is most appreciated!)