Will Niacin Vitamin Therapy Work for Bipolar Disorder?

The history of niacin in psychiatry dates back to the early 1950s, when Canadian psychiatrist Abram Hoffer began experimenting with its use to treat schizophrenia. 

He got the idea while researching LSD with Humphry Osmond, who coined the word ‘psychedelic.’  They found that niacin could sometimes bring someone down from a ‘bad trip.’  The thought that since an  LSD trip had similarities to the visual and auditory experiences of schizophrenics, that maybe niacin could treat schizophrenia.

Hoffer therefore theorized that schizophrenia was caused by an imbalance of neurotransmitters, and that niacin could help to restore this balance. He began by giving his patients relatively low doses of niacin, but he gradually increased the dose until some of them were taking up to 10,000 milligrams per day.

Hoffer reported that many of his patients experienced significant improvement on niacin therapy. Some of them were even able to discontinue their antipsychotic medication altogether. However, other researchers were unable to replicate Hoffer’s results, and his work was met with skepticism by the mainstream psychiatric community.

Despite the controversy, interest in the use of niacin to treat schizophrenia persisted. In the 1970s, Linus Pauling, the two-time Nobel Prize laureate, became an advocate for niacin therapy. Pauling argued that niacin could help to prevent and treat a wide range of diseases, including cancer, heart disease, and schizophrenia.

In the 1980s and 1990s, there was a renewed wave of interest in niacin therapy for schizophrenia. A number of studies were conducted, but the results were mixed. Some studies found that niacin could improve cognitive function and reduce symptoms of schizophrenia, while other studies found no benefit.

Overall, the evidence for the use of niacin to treat psychiatric disorders is not supported by scientific studies.  It was one of those great ideas, which could have worked in theory, but in the end did not.  Therefore, niacin is not being used in treating schizophrenia, where it held the most promise, and certainly by no serious medical professionals for bipolar disorder.

It is important to note that niacin can have side effects, especially at high doses. These side effects can include flushing, itching, nausea, and vomiting. Niacin can also interact with other medications, so it is important to talk to your doctor before starting niacin therapy.

In summary, there is no good research showing niacin to be helpful with bipolar disorder.  Niacin is involved in tryptophan pathways in the body, which then involve serotonin and melatonin, but these substances, while having important roles in mental health, are not involved in bipolar disorder. 

Michael Rose, M.A. uses a mixture of distilled polyunsaturated fatty acids, trace minerals, and amino acids to treat bipolar disorder.  He bases his work on validated scientific studies. He has the training and talent to help a person find the right mix of these nutritional substances, and the right balance of each.  He wishes he could tell everyone to take the same nutrients, but each person has such physiological individuality that a unique nutritional program has to be designed for each person.  From university research, and Michael’s experience with clients, it is usually possible for a person to reduce the number of psychiatric medications for bipolar disorder that they take, as well as the the doses.  There are some clients who have not or will not take medication that respond to nutritional treatment alone, along with lifestyle changes.

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