Beyond Schizophrenia

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Faster than a speeding bullet? Maybe. Leaps tall buildings in a single bound? Perhaps. But what he has done is come to rescue of real-life Lois Lane, a.k.a. Margot Kidder. He's Abram Hoffer, MD and his 50-year crusade for orthomolecular treatment of mental illness has at last been caught on videotape.

There are no actors in Masks of Madness, Science of Healing. Hosted by Margot Kidder, this documentary is not only a tribute to the life's work of one super man. It's also a useful tool for patients and doctors alike. Viewers both share the tragic experiences of a handful of patients and observe their steps on the road to wellness.

"[Typical doctors] don't say there's hope," said Kidder on video. "In fact, they eliminate hope."

She knows what it's like to feel helpless. Before natural treatment, she spent most of her adult life with symptoms of manic depression. Her eventual recovery from bouts of drug use and hospitalization was long and laborious, but worth it.

"It's a miracle," she said.

Back at the Beginning

Picture it: Saskatchewan, early 1950s. Dr Hoffer and research partner Dr Humphrey Osmond had just started examining the relationship between the body's overproduction of hallucinogens and the resulting schizophrenic experience. They called it the "adrenochrome" hypothesis and became the first psychiatrists in America to conduct double-blind controlled studies.

"Adrenochrome is a hallucinogen which is present in the body in fairly substantial quantities," said Hoffer in a recent interview.

"We based our treatment on a method to try and cut down the production of adrenochrome and to prevent it from being active."

Their focus became nutrition, and treatment has come to include food allergy analysis, dietary changes and supplementation with vitamins and minerals, specifically vitamins B3 (niacin) and C.

In 1969, Hoffer's colleague Dr Linus Pauling coined the term for this new medical paradigm: "orthomolecular," meaning the use of naturally occurring substances in maintaining health and treating diseases.

"Our group was the first to highlight that vitamins should be used in optimum quantities to restore people to function in a normal lifestyle," said Hoffer in a previous interview.

Then and Now

Over the years, orthomolecular medicine and the work of the Canadian Schizophrenic Association has attracted support, but still not enough. For some doctors, the movement is slow to shed its cape of "quackery."

"We are not alternative," Hoffer stressed recently. "We are complementary. We combine the best of everything and we get much better results compared with the use of standard treatment alone."

In the meantime, mental illness has become one of the country's most expensive medical conditions. Schizophrenia alone costs the government more than $4 billion a year through health and welfare expenditures.

"My definition of recovery is that [patients] don't have any symptoms, they get along well with their families and communities and they don't shoot up schoolchildren," Hoffer said.

In a world where one to two per cent of us will suffer schizophrenia, and five per cent will experience major/manic depression, Masks of Madness offers what is needed: a fresh vision--and just in the nick of time.

For more information, contact the Canadian Schizophrenic Foundation at (416) 733-2117 or visit them online at .

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By Michelle Hancock

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