Vitamin D Newsletter


Vitamin D deficiency and psychosis 

Melissa from Montréal, Canada writes: 

Dr. Cannell: I am a naturopath in Montréal, Canada. I work primarily in mental health. I did a search on MDConsult recently for "Differential diagnosis of psychosis." One of the differential diagnoses in the list was vitamin D deficiency. I am unable to find any research that supports that, and that list had no citations. Do you know anything about it?

I have a patient who recently experienced some of the most extreme psychosis of his life. During that time, I measured his Vitamin D. It was too low to be detected! I started him on 5,000 IU per day and had measured it a few months later, when he was doing much better, and it was 22 ng/mL. I thought there was a relationship between the deficiency and the psychosis, but could not find anything on PubMed or anywhere else about the connection.

Any thoughts on that?

Dr. Cannell replies: 

The scientific community has never researched the issue of using vitamin D as a drug, that is, as a pharmaceutical. 

This is good news; however, I am not aware of any papers on the treatment of psychosis with vitamin D. At my hospital, which now has a policy to test all new patients for vitamin D deficiency, several of us have noticed that a few psychotic patients seem to get remarkably better on vitamin D, and others can reduce the dose of their meds once their vitamin D deficiency is treated. However, the vast majority of patients must stay on meds or they relapse. No one, to my knowledge, has treated psychotic patients with pharmaceutical doses, like 20,000 IU per day. It would not surprise me at all if researchers found that dose to be effective treatment in some cases of psychosis.

The scientific community has never researched the issue of using vitamin D as a drug, that is, as a pharmaceutical. If one was free to use pharmaceutical doses, as psychiatrists in private practice are free to do, they could rapidly lend some light to the subject by treating psychotic patients with both antipsychotic meds and with 20,000 IU per day and carefully follow 25(OH)D, calcium, and clinical course. I suspect they would find a vitamin D treatment effect. If they did such a case series, I would publish their reports in this newsletter, be they negative or positive.

Page last edited: 05 November 2010