Dilantin: A Gift to Mankind

Dilantin: A Gift to Mankind

Julian Whitaker, MD

After a long, colorful, prosperous, and productive life, Jack Dreyfus, the “Lion of Wall Street,” passed away on March 27, 2009, at the age of 95. My wife, Connie, and I flew to New York City to attend his funeral, and I spoke a few words in his honor.

Jack Dreyfus has had a profound effect upon me. Not because of his business acumen, although he was best known as an astute investor and founder of a very successful mutual fund. And not because of our friendship, which I enjoyed for more than 20 years. Jack influenced me—and indirectly countless others—because he introduced me to a therapy that has changed the lives of thousands suffering with anxiety, depression, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), ADHD, anger outbursts, and dozens of other problems.

That therapy is Dilantin.

Dilantin Cured Jack’s Depression

About 25 years ago, I first heard that Dilantin (phenytoin), an inexpensive anti-epileptic drug that has been around since the 1930s, was an effective therapy for depression and anxiety. I was astonished. Like all physicians, I thought Dilantin was used only to control seizures.

I immediately called Jack Dreyfus, the source of this “rumor,” to investigate. He sent me summaries of thousands of clinical studies and scientific articles from prestigious international medical journals showing that Dilantin provided almost-unbelievable benefits for patients with dysphoria (feelings of depression, anxiety, restlessness, dissatisfaction, or unease).

Jack had compiled this work after his own experience with severe depression back in the 1960s. Once he started taking Dilantin, his depression completely disappeared. This inspired him to look further into this remarkable drug, and he discovered a very large body of scientific literature—some 23,000 studies—demonstrating Dilantin’s efficacy in the treatment of not only dysphoria but scores of health concerns.

How Dilantin Works

If you understand how this drug works, it’s easy to see why it benefits such a wide range of conditions. Dilantin calms down electrical activity in the brain. That’s why it’s such a great antiseizure medication. Seizures are caused by sudden, abnormal, and out-of-control electrical spikes in the brain. Dilantin simply smoothes the electrical flow, thus preventing seizures.

Although seizure disorders are relatively rare, millions and millions of people have “static” in these electrical impulses that can lead to anxiety, depression, and a whole host of problems. That’s where low-dose Dilantin comes in. Its effects on the nervous system can be likened to fine-tuning a radio. If you’re getting static—you can hear the music but there’s also a lot of irritating noise—adjusting the dial removes the noise and allows only the music to come through.

Jack Wanted to Get the Word Out

Jack recognized that because Dilantin’s patent had expired long ago, there was no financial incentive for its manufacturer, Parke-Davis, or anyone else to promote it. So he took it upon himself to get the word out. He lobbied the FDA to expand the approved indications for Dilantin beyond the treatment of seizure disorders and sent information packets to every physician in the country.

All told, he spent close to $100 million of his own money—with no possibility of any personal return—trying to educate doctors and others on Dilantin’s utility. He made some headway, and his work has been recognized in countries around the world where Dilantin is routinely used for conditions other than seizure disorders.

But here in the United States, physicians turned a deaf and hostile ear to Jack and the medical research he collected and collated for their benefit.

Astounding Clinical Benefits

Well, most of them did. I, on the other hand, studied the research and began prescribing Dilantin to appropriate patients. For starters, I tried it myself and found that, especially when I’m under stress, it calms me down. I’ve been taking it off and on now for more than 20 years and keep a bottle in my car, home, office, golf bag—even in Connie’s purse. In fact, she often knows when I need it before I do!

Dilantin has also helped thousands of my patients. One of the first was a teenager who had OCD—he washed his hands constantly, and he felt compelled to pull his shirt over his hand before opening a door. After starting Dilantin, his symptoms disappeared. This formerly reclusive boy became the editor of his high school newspaper, went on to graduate from Stanford University, and is now a successful professional. He recently told me that if he runs out of Dilantin, after two or three days his obsessive behaviors begin to creep up again.

Another patient is T.M., who first came to the clinic 10 years ago. He’d been diagnosed with diabetes and Tourette syndrome. Thanks to his medical problems, he’d been laid off, his wife was on the verge of leaving him, and he was seriously depressed. So, I recommended Dilantin. The effects were immediate—and enduring. His uncontrolled outbursts of profanity (a symptom of Tourette) ceased, and his outlook turned around completely. After he returned home, he made dramatic lifestyle changes that reversed his diabetes, he and his wife patched things up, and he returned to work. T.M. contacted us a few years later to report that things were going great and he’d recently opened a health food store.

Dilantin Can Help—But Can You Get It?

Here at the clinic, we regularly prescribe Dilantin to help patients with concentration problems, hyperactivity, temper tantrums, claustrophobia, and other irrational fears. It improves sleep, memory, migraines, restless leg syndrome, and heart arrhythmias, and helps with substance withdrawal.

But the primary benefit we see is relief of depression and anxiety, particularly those worries and distracting, negative thoughts that you just can’t seem to get out of your head. If you’re affected by such thoughts—and you may be surprised by how many people are—you’re likely to benefit from Dilantin.

There’s no question that any doctor in the country could easily, legally, and appropriately prescribe Dilantin for all of these conditions. This is called “off-label” drug use, and it is a common practice among physicians. However, medicine has become so tightly regulated that physicians sometimes tell patients they will not risk their medical license by writing a prescription for Dilantin. This is utter nonsense—but it’s reflective of the fearful and intimidated state of doctors in America today.

Gratitude to Jack Dreyfus

Jack Dreyfus did everything he possibly could do to educate physicians on the broad clinical benefits of Dilantin, and those of us who have put our biases aside and actually investigated this drug have embraced it wholeheartedly. We, and our patients, owe this remarkable man a debt of gratitude for this incredible gift.


  • To learn more about Dilantin, read Jack Dreyfus’ book, A Remarkable Medicine Has Been Overlooked, available from the Whitaker Wellness Institute by calling (800) 810-6655.
  • Dilantin requires a prescription. If you talk to your doctor about this, make sure you’re armed with information, such as Jack Dreyfus’ book. If he refuses to prescribe it, come and see us. To schedule an appointment, call (866) 944-8253.

Modified from Health & Healing with permission from Healthy Directions, LLC. Photocopying, reproduction, or quotation strictly prohibited without written permission from the publisher. To subscribe to Health & Healing, click here.

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