Controversial Victoria psychiatrist Abram Hoffer dies at age 91


2006: Dr. Abram Hoffer in his office with portraits of his colleagues including Aldous Huxley,far left, and Linus Pauling

2006: Dr. Abram Hoffer in his office with portraits of his colleagues including Aldous Huxley,far left, and Linus Pauling

Photograph by: Darren Stone, Times Colonist

The following is an obituary sent by Abram Hoffer’s son John Hoffer:

Abram Hoffer died in Victoria on Wednesday, May 27 after a brief illness and a long, healthy, productive and brilliant life.

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 in nutrition) and the University of Toronto (MD). He specialized in psychiatry and was, for many years, director of psychiatric research for the Saskatchewan Department of Public Health and associate professor of medicine at the University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon. In these capacities he carried out groundbreaking research in several areas, ultimately authoring more than 500 peer-reviewed and popular articles and more than 30 academic monographs and popular books.

He challenged the then-dominant view of schizophrenia as a psychological disorder caused by poor mothering, and contributed importantly to the formation of the field of neuropsychopharmacology. He 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., 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. His son Bill died in 1998 and his wife Rose died in 2001. He is survived by his daughter, Miriam (and her husband Guy Ewing), by his son John (and his wife Yehudit Silverman), and by four grandchildren: Adam, Megan, Joshua and Rebecca. At his request, the funeral will be private. We are immensely grateful to the nurses and physicians on West 2 of the Royal Jubilee Hospital. We are indebted to Dr. James Spence for his thoughtful and compassionate attention. Donations can be sent to the International Schizophrenia Foundation, founded by Abram Hoffer.


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2006: Dr. Abram Hoffer in his office with portraits of his colleagues including Aldous Huxley,far left, and Linus Pauling

2006: Dr. Abram Hoffer in his office with portraits of his colleagues including Aldous Huxley,far left, and Linus Pauling

Photograph by: Darren Stone, Times Colonist

2006: Dr. Abram Hoffer in his office with portraits of his colleagues including Aldous Huxley,far left, and Linus Pauling
2007: Dr. Abram Hoffer, 89, has won the Dr. Rogers Prize for work in Complimentary and Alternative medicine.  Hoffer says the two most important vitamins are Niacin and vitamin C.  The green pills are vitamin C.  Hoffer wrote a book last year called feel better live longer.

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Tom K.
June 11, 2009 - 12:35 PM
 Dr. Hoffer was a genius, light years ahead of his time just like his friends Bill Wilson (Co founder of Alcoholics Anonymous) Aldous Huxley, Linus Pauling and so many others. I suffered from alcoholism and depression for many years. I came across Dr. Hoffer's research in 1995 and proceeded to take niacin at the doses he prescribed. He saved my life and many other friends in A.A. I have shared this with. I continued this research and wrote him telling him of my research of the Tryptophan - Niacin pathway. He wanted me to publish in The Journal of Orthomolecular Medicine, sadly I never finished it. God Bless you Dr. Hoffer you have saved and graced many lives. Tom K.
friend and patient
June 10, 2009 - 7:30 PM
 What an outstanding man, Dr. Hoffer was a family friend and wonderful healer. The medical community has lost a true hero... you will be miss you.
Ursula Dyck
June 09, 2009 - 3:21 PM
 I am so saddened to hear the news of Dr. Hoffer's passing away...he will indeed be missed by the many who loved and respected him. I just began his mega dose vitamin therapy, and I am feeling great. His contributions to mankind are colossal, and he was living proof of his own advice, he walked the talk, and that meant a lot to me. My sympathies and prayers are with his family, friends, and faithful colleague, Fran, for their loss of a great human being.
Anne (Watkins) Amey
June 05, 2009 - 5:55 PM
 I remember Dr. Hoffer with great fondness. He was Professor of Biochemistry when I attended Regina College in 1951-53. He had a unique teaching method which one can only wish more would follow. I met him again in Saskatoon at the University Hospital where he was conducting research in schizophrenia and did some lab work for him on this project.
Marihianne F.
June 04, 2009 - 9:22 PM
 I am so saddened to read about the passing of Dr. Hoffer. I never met him. However, when I was really sick and was at my ultimate low, I fortunately stumbled on some of his writings and treated myself back to health entirely on my own with no help from anyone except for him. Thank you so much Dr. Hoffer for being there when I really needed you. You are a tremendous inspiration and godsend. God Bless!
Anton Kuerti
June 02, 2009 - 10:56 PM

I was privileged to know this great, compassionate and highly learned man.  He was a true pioneer who blazed the way for numerous advances in medicine and psychiatry.  I tried hard to get him the Order of Canada, which he so richly deserved, but this was apparently blocked by foolish colleagues who felt threatened by his way of thinking, and by the fact that his methods worked far better than their life-threatening pharmaceuticals or endless and super-expensive psychoanalysis.  I am thankful for having known him.

June 02, 2009 - 9:51 AM

We will missed him. He is a real gentleman. One that is courageous to stand up for what he believed him despite great opposition.

June 01, 2009 - 11:13 AM
 Sorry to hear his passing. He was a good man. He stood up for what he really believed and gave many people many more years of productive and happy life when was told by other doctors that they were doomed. I will always remembere him and try imitate his courage in my own life.
Dr. Jim Kirk
May 30, 2009 - 7:27 PM
 I met Dr. Hofer through his good Victoria friend, Dr. Joe Campbell. We had dinner at Somerset. Upon Dr. Campbell's death, Dr. Hofer called me to share his thoughts and sorrow over his passing.
Norm Smookler
May 30, 2009 - 8:18 AM
 I am very sad to hear about this loss. My wife and I have been visiting Abram once a year for the last few years and he has always blessed us in new ways. Abram was one of the wisest men I've ever met but also one of the kindest. Thank you for posting the 9 minute video--it is a good way to say goodbye.
Christopher Lam, MD
May 29, 2009 - 11:22 PM
 Since I met Dr. Hoffer over a dozen years ago he was a continual source of inspiration for me. From him I learned about the paramount importance of good nutrition for health, of respecting the patient's dignity, and of never taking away the patient's hope. With his research, collaborating with other scientists and health professionals, educating others, and over half a century of caring for numerous patients, he came to be at the forefront of orthomolecular medicine. His courage, generosity and perseverance were exemplary. I nominated him for the first ever Canada-wide Dr. Rogers Prize for Excellence in Complementary and Alternative Medicine in 2007, which he won; I could not think of anyone more deserving than Dr. Abram Hoffer.
Frances Enriquez
May 29, 2009 - 4:58 PM
 When I was going through a very difficult time in my life , Dr Hoffer came to my rescue and led me to a path of health and wellness . I am forever grateful for his wisdom and gentle manner . My deepest sympathy to his family and faithful secretary Fran on the passing of this great man . I shall always consider him as a shining light in my life .
Thankful Patient
May 29, 2009 - 11:00 AM
 Dr Hoffer gave me my life. I was diagnosed as bi-polar at age 29; although the symptoms were recognized as far back as school records went. I tried many medications which never made me feel right. In my mid 30s I was told about Dr Hoffer and was able to get an appointment with him. I started his vitamin 'cocktail’ and 3 months later I was feeling as I had never felt before. At age 50 I have a life that I love, that I don’t feel would have been possible without that one appointment. He really was a miracle in my life and I think of him often. My thought and prayers are with his family as they go through the loss of a truly great man.
May 29, 2009 - 10:07 AM
 He made such great contributions to psychiatry. Men like him are few and far between. I am ever grateful for the kindness, compassion, and genuine concern he displayed for my well being. Blessings to him.
lynn munroe
May 29, 2009 - 8:53 AM
 I am so saddened by this news. He has been an inspiration to so many we have communicated through the years & i have such a respect & feel so humbled to have known him & learned from him a true pioneer of health, i own a colonic center in the united states & conversation has come up often about trauma/etc & his name & regime was discussed often. he will truly be missed. God Bless him !
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