Narconon

narconon

Narconon is a Scientology front group that offers purported drug rehabilitation treatment and anti-drug lectures. Both programs promote the ideology of L. Ron Hubbard. Narconon is headquartered in Hollywood and operates several dozen residential centers worldwide, chiefly in the United States and Western Europe. The rehab program has been described as ‘medically unsafe,’ ‘quackery,’ and ‘medical fraud,’ while academic and medical experts have dismissed the educational program as containing ‘factual errors in basic concepts such as physical and mental effects, addiction and even spelling.’

In turn, Narconon has claimed that mainstream medicine is biased against it, and that ‘people who endorse so-called controlled drug use cannot be trusted to review a program advocating totally drug-free living.’ Narconon has said that criticism of its program is ‘bigoted,’ and that its critics are ‘in favor of drug abuse … they are either using drugs or selling drugs,’ while Scientology head David Miscavige attributes criticism to Scientology’s ‘war’ with ‘the mental health field.’

L. Ron Hubbard’s writings, which underlie the program, state that drugs and their metabolites are stored in the body’s fatty tissues, causing the addict’s cravings when partially released later on, and can be flushed out through a regimen comprising elements such as exercise, sauna and intake of high doses of vitamins. This hypothesis is contradicted by experimental evidence, and is not accepted by mainstream medicine or education. Narconon’s claimed 80% success rate has been described by drug experts as ‘simply untrue.’

Celebrity supporter Tom Cruise asserts that Narconon is ‘the only successful drug rehabilitation program in the world,’ adding ‘It’s a statistically proven fact that there is only one successful drug rehabilitation program in the world. Period.’ He ascribes criticism of Narconon to religious bigotry, saying ‘A minority wants to hate – okay. For me, it’s connected with intolerance.’ However, there exist no independently recognized studies which confirm the efficacy of the Narconon program.

Narconon’s creator was William C. Benitez, a former inmate at Arizona State Prison who had served time for narcotics offenses. His work was supported by Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard, and in 1972 Hubbard sponsored the incorporation of Narconon as an organization. It was co-founded by Benitez and two Scientologists, Henning Heldt and Arthur Maren. Even before Narconon became established, Scientology and Dianetics were promoted as providing a cure for drug addiction. In 1970 the Reverend John W. Elliot, senior minister of the Church of Scientology and chairman of its Drug Abuse Prevention team, announced that ‘Dianetic Counselling’ had ‘completely cured 30 out of 30 people’ who came to the Church of Scientology for help. Rev. Elliott also reported that Dianetics could cure hay fever, asthma and arthritis.

In the early days of Narconon, no distinction was made between Scientology’s ‘religious’ and ‘secular’ branches; Narconon was considered by Scientologists to be an example of Scientology in action. ‘Narconon, with the Scientology program, is another example of the workability of Dianetics and Scientology,’ said an adherent in 1970. ‘The program has been expanded and is used in all Scientology churches and missions.’

The Narconon website reports that the keynote of Narconon is that the ‘…individual is responsible for his own condition and that anyone can improve his condition if he is given a workable way to do so… man is basically good and it is pain, suffering, and loss that lead him astray.’ It positions the program as an approach to rehabilitation without recourse to alternative drugs. This early program did not, however, deal directly with withdrawal symptoms. In 1973, the Narconon program adopted procedures to include drug-free withdrawal.’

A number of celebrities have publicly attested that Narconon was helpful in their own lives. Musician Nicky Hopkins and actress Kirstie Alley have credited Narconon for their recovery from addiction to drugs and alcohol. Alley has since become a public spokesperson for Narconon. The New York Rescue Workers Detoxification Project has, successfully by some accounts, used Hubbard’s sauna detoxification regimen to improve the health of rescue workers exposed to toxic substances from 9/11, although the results are disputed. Toxicologist Dr Ronald E. Gotts described the Narconon / Purification Rundown program in a 1987 report on its use by California firefighters: ‘The treatment in California preyed upon the fears of concerned workers, but served no rational medical function. … Moreover, the program itself, developed not by physicians or scientists, but by the founder of the Church of Scientology, has no recognized value in the established medical and scientific community. It is quackery.’

In its early days, Narconon used unaltered Scientology materials in its courses. However, as Narconon promoted its drug-treatment services to a variety of governmental jurisdictions within the US, the organization repeatedly found itself at the center of controversy when the Scientology connection was raised by journalists or politicians. By the late 1970s, Scientology was keen to disavow its connection with Narconon. When the FBI raided Scientology offices in 1977, papers seized revealed that Scientologists were instructed to refer to Narconon and other ‘front groups’ using code names: ‘Codes should be used for the names of front groups that we do not want connected with the C of S and for anything that gives specific and actual evidence that the C of S is in legal control of B6 groups [of which Narconon was one].’

In the 1990s, Narconon was at pains to deny all links to Scientology; in 1994 John Wood, the head of Narconon UK, denied any connection between Narconon and Scientology, saying, ‘I know beyond doubt that Narconon does not recruit for nor promote the Church of Scientology,’ despite the final stage in Narconon’s process for patients at that time being ‘Route to nearest Org (Scientology organization) for further services.’

Narconon asserts that methadone, amphetamines, methamphetamines, morphine, copper, mercury, and other toxins, some consumed years earlier, leave the body by means of sweating. This contrasts with the view of the body’s drug retention taken by mainstream science, which has found that most recreational drugs leave the body within a few days (with the exception of marijuana, which in the case of frequent use can remain in the body for up to a month). According to Narconon, vitamin and mineral supplements are needed to address nutritional deficiencies and offset nutrient loss due to sweating. Other key elements in the program are the use of niacin, which Hubbard believed to increase free fatty acid mobilization, and the inclusion of polyunsaturated fats which he thought to increase the excretion rate of some toxin compounds.

Hubbard’s theory (that niacin promotes the release of fat into the body) has been shown to be invalid; niacin is commonly prescribed by doctors to reduce — rather than increase — the level of lipids in the blood. In spite of the medical evidence which shows that the actual effect of niacin on the body is opposite to that predicted by Hubbard, Narconon continues to treat patients on the basis of Hubbard’s discredited theories. The risk to patients of taking high-dose niacin is one reason why medical experts assessing the Narconon program have found that it is a danger to patients; it has been banned in a number of jurisdictions including France and Quebec.

The remainder of the Narconon course uses ‘training routines’ or ‘TRs’ originally devised by Hubbard to teach communications skills to Scientologists. TR 8 involves the individual commanding an ashtray to ‘stand up’ and ‘sit down,’ and thanking it for doing so, as loudly as they can. Former Scientologists say that the purpose of the drill is for the individual to ‘beam’ their ‘intention’ into the ashtray to make it move.

Narconon operates facilities under other names, partly to hide they are part of Scientology. There are also other Scientology-affiliated drug rehabilitation groups that are based on the Purification rundown: Drug Free Ambassadors, Pur Detox (also Pür Detox), Novus Medical Detox Center and Suncoast Rehabilitation Center, Sober Living in Orange County, Rainbow Canyon Rehabilitation Center, Teen-anon or Streetcats, and Israel Says No to Drugs. Additionally, ‘The Truth About Drugs’ and ‘Foundation for a Drug-Free World’ are slogans under which Scientology and Narconon advertise their programs while concealing their Scientology origins, ‘Say No to Drugs Say Yes To Life’ or ‘Yes to Life, No to Drugs’ is a front group for Narconon and Scientology, organizing races and street festivals to support Narconon.

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