Treating ADHD with Vitamin B-3 (Niacinamide)

by Andrew W. Saul, Editor of the Orthomolecular Medicine News Service

ADHD is not caused by a drug deficiency. But it may indeed be caused by profound nutrient deficiency, more accurately termed nutrient dependency. Although all nutrients are important, the one that an ADHD child is most likely in greatest need of is vitamin B-3, niacinamide.

Over 60 years ago, niacinamide therapy pioneer William Kaufman, M.D., Ph.D, wrote:

"Some patients have a response to niacinamide therapy which seems to be the clinical equivalent of 'decreased running' observed in experimental animals. When these animals are deprived experimentally of certain essential nutriments, they display 'excessive running,' or hyperkinesis. When these deficient animals receive the essential nutriments in sufficient amounts for a sufficient period of time, there is exhibited a marked 'decrease in running.'"

The benefit is so profound, said Dr. Kaufman, that a person receiving niacinamide treatment "may wonder whether or not his vitamin medications contain a sedative. . . Analysis of his history indicates that prior to niacinamide therapy he suffered from a type of compulsive impatience, starting many projects which he left unfinished as a new interest distracted him, returning perhaps after a lapse of time to complete the original project. Without realizing it, he was often careless and inefficient in his work, but was 'busy all the time.'"

This report appeared, almost as a side note, on page 73 of Dr. Kaufman's 1949 book, The Common Form of Joint Dysfunction. So accurately does it describe the problems of ADHD children that it is difficult to believe that vitamin B-3 has been so thoroughly ignored for so long.

Dr. Kaufman continues: "With vitamin therapy, such a patient becomes unaccustomedly calm, working more efficiently, finishing what he starts, and he loses the feeling that he is constantly driving himself. He has leisure time that he does not know how to use. When he feels tired, he is able to rest, and does not feel impelled to carry on in spite of fatigue. . . If such a patient can be persuaded to continue with niacinamide therapy, in time he comes to enjoy a sense of well-being, realizing in retrospect that what he thought in the past was a super-abundance of energy and vitality was in reality an abnormal 'wound-up' feeling, which was an expression of aniacinamidosis (niacin deficiency)." (p. 74)

Dr. Kaufman's observation that niacinamide is an effective remedy for hyperactivity and lack of mental focus is very important. With attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, orthodox medicine seems unwilling even to admit nutrient deficiency as a causal factor, let alone a curative one. Such nutritional information as does make news generally stays far from the headlines, unless, of course, it is critical of vitamins. The most widely publicized vitamin therapy trials tend to be low-dose, worthless, negative, or all three. Mass media attention to a given nutritional research study appears to be inversely proportional to its curative value.

Therefore, the public and many physicians remain unaware of the power of simple and safe natural methods due to contradictory, inadequate, or just plain biased media reporting. When the press touts the supposed "dangers" of vitamins while simultaneously overlooking the very real dangers of having kids on long-term drug maintenance, it strains at a gnat and swallows a camel. Whereas drug side effects fill the Physician's Desk Reference (PDR) to bursting, the chief side effect of niacinamide is failure to take enough of it. The quantity of a nutrient that cures an illness indicates the patient's degree of need for the nutrient. This amount may be quite high. A dry sponge holds more milk.

Dr. Kaufman advocated relatively modest quantities of niacinamide (250 mg) per dose but stressed the importance of the frequency (six or eight times a day) of those doses. Frequently divided doses are maximally effective. The precise amount of niacinamide that an ADHD child requires needs to be thoughtfully considered by parent and physician alike.

To learn more about Dr. William Kaufman's clinical success with high dose vitamin therapy:

Vitamin deficiency, megadoses, and some supplemental history. A letter by William Kaufman, MD, PhD, April 7, 1992.

The Common Form of Joint Dysfunction (1949) is long out of print, but the full text has been posted online for free reading.

In 2002, Dr. Kaufman's papers were acquired by the University of Michigan, Special Collections Library, 7th Floor, Harlan Hatcher Graduate Library, Ann Arbor, Ml 48109. Email them here.

A bibliography of Dr. Kaufman's work will be found here.

(Much of this article originally appeared in the Journal of Orthomolecular Medicine 2003, Vol 18, p 29-32. Free full text here.)

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