Sunday, February 14, 2010

How did orthomolecular psychiatry begin?

The existence of vitamins (substances in food which are vital to life) was established in the first half of the last century. Some of the discoveries: Vitamin C cures scurvy (previously known to respond to citrus); and vitamin B3 reverses pellagra.

Both these nutrient-deficiency illnesses had a psychiatric component: depression, anxiety and, in more severe cases, psychosis.

In some regions of the US, half the patients hospitalized for mental illness were actually pellagrins, and recovered in a few weeks of vitamin B3.

Research into moderate doses B vitamins, C, and E for “mental” illness continued until interrupted by World War II.

Nutritional research resumed in the fifties with the schizophrenia studies of Dr Abram Hoffer and Dr Humphrey Osmond. They had seen that oxidized adrenalin can create a short psychosis (e.g., when asthmatic inhalers contain pink (oxidized) adrenalin). This suggested potential benefits of vitamin B3 (to limit adrenalin formation), and vitamin C (to prevent its oxidation). Furthermore they knew that these vitamins countered the psychosis of pellagra and scurvy, respectively.

To increase effectiveness, they chose relatively high doses, for the first trials: 10 grams of niacin (vitamin B3) and 5 grams of  C; both in divided doses.

In the hospital in which they worked, a youth was steadily deteriorating, despite all mainstream medical efforts. He had become catatonic, unable to speak or use the bathroom, and finally lapsed into a coma. His doctors believed he would soon die, due to his schizophrenia.

This youth became one of the first patients to receive the niacin/vitamin C treatments. The next day, the coma ended. After two weeks on the nutrients, he was pronounced normal. Twelve years later, he remained well and was an active member of his community.

The remarkable improvement in patients like this marked the beginnings of nutrient-based psychiatry, then called Megavitamin Therapy.

Twenty years later, Linus Pauling, two-time Nobel laureate, in a seminal article in Science, renamed it  Orthomolecular Medicine, i.e., a medicine which sought to optimize substances naturally occurring in brain and body (required and missing nutrients), by providing optimal doses of ortho (right) molecules, and eliminating toxins.


No comments:

Post a Comment