Narconon is a residential program aimed at substance abusers. It operates through several dozen treatment centers worldwide, chiefly in the United States and Western Europe. Each Narconon center is independently owned and operated under a license from ABLE International, a Scientology-related entity. Actress Kirstie Alley is their International Spokeswoman. The program has garnered considerable controversy as a result of its association with Scientology and its drug addiction treatment methods.
- 1 History
- 2 Narconon's treatment method
- 3 Controversies
- 4 See also
- 5 References
- 6 External links
Narconon was established February 19, 1966 as a drug-rehabilitation program based on "The Fundamentals of Thought" by L. Ron Hubbard and delivered to drug abusers in the Arizona State Prisons. The name "Narconon" originally referred not to an organization but to the program. Its 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.
The Narconon website reports that from its inception the program promoted 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, using vitamins and mineral supplements in tandem with training procedures adapted from basic courses in Scientology.
Narconon and Scientology
In December 1988, the president of the Church of Scientology, Heber Jentzsch, was arrested in Spain after an investigation into Narconon that resulted in (later dropped) allegations that he and the Church of Scientology were defrauding Spanish citizens and running its centers with unqualified staff. Spanish citizens began inundating the courthouse with phone calls complaining of being hoodwinked by Narconon. The judge in the case said at a news conference after the arrests that the only god of the church of Scientology is money, and he compared the church to a pyramid scheme in which members pay increasing sums of money. He said that Narconon swindled its clients and lured them into Scientology. In 1989, 75 Scientologists in Italy were arrested and an investigation showed that "parents of drug addicts were paying heavy monthly fees to Narconon, which advertised itself as a drug rehabilitation and cure center, but getting nothing in return." By the end of 1991 the court found there was no evidence to support prosecutors’ allegations that drug rehabilitation and other programs sponsored by the Church of Scientology in Spain amounted to illicit gathering aimed at activities such as bilking people of money. In April 2002, the charge was formally dropped. The court also ordered that the bail bond deposited for his release in 1988 be returned to the Church along with interest, which nearly doubled the original amount.
Its affiliation with the Church of Scientology has made Narconon itself a focus of controversy. The organization has never denied that many of its administrators are committed Scientologists or that its methods are based on the teachings of L. Ron Hubbard. In the early days, Narconon used unaltered Scientology materials in its courses, and Scientology executives were directly managing the organization (founders Heldt and Maren were high-ranking members of the Church's public-relations department known as the Guardian's Office). 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. Not only did the Church of Scientology have serious public-image problems, but the link with Scientology raised questions about the constitutional appropriateness of governmental bodies sponsoring a religiously affiliated organization (see Lemon v. Kurtzman). These problems were further intensified by claims that the treatment program was medically unsound and numerous allegations that the Narconon treatment program serves as a fundraising and recruitment program for the Church of Scientology. A March 1–5, 1998 Boston Herald series exposed how two Scientology-linked groups, Narconon and the World Literacy Crusade, have used anti-drug and learn-to-read programs to gain access to public schools without disclosing their Scientology ties. After the Herald report was published, Heber Jentzsch, president of the Church of Scientology International, confirmed that the church's Los Angeles law firm hired a private-investigative firm to look into the personal life of reporter Joseph Mallia, who wrote the series. The Herald noted numerous other instances over the years where reporters were harassed with "noisy investigations" after writing stories exposing the Church's misdeeds.
Narconon has developed its own secularized course materials in response to the concerns they operate as a marketing tool for the Church. These have evolved through several iterations to produce Narconon's current "New Life Program." While this program is very similar to pre-existing Scientology courses, Narconon insists that it is entirely "non-religious" in nature and rarely if ever mentions Scientology in its publications. At least one Narconon organization describes themselves as FSMs, a Scientology abbreviation for Field Staff Member.
These changes have not silenced the controversy. In the early 1990s, Narconon opened a large treatment center near Newkirk, Oklahoma, resulting in a series of critical articles in a local newspaper. The Oklahoma Department of Health demanded that Narconon be licensed with the state, but the Board of Mental Health refused approval, stating "No scientifically well-controlled independent, long-term outcome studies were found that directly and clearly establish the effectiveness of the Narconon program for the treatment of chemical dependency and the more credible evidence establishes Narconon's program is not effective ... The Board concludes that the program offered by Narconon-Chilocco is not medically safe." Even the New York Times wrote a story detailing how the town's initial euphoria at the prospect of a drug treatment center has been replaced by distrust, frustration, and fear. Townspeople said that Narconon was not honest about its affiliation with the Church of Scientology, its financing, its medical credentials, and its plans for the project. A Narconon spokesman quoted for the story said that all the appearances of deception reported by the townspeople, such as the group that praised Narconon at a public ceremony and presented it with a check for $200,000 and turned out to itself be part of Narconon, were due to "false information being fed in there by somebody who's in favor of drug abuse ... They're either connected to selling drugs or they're using drugs." Narconon's Scientologist attorney Tim Bowles filed a series of lawsuits against Oklahoma institutions and officials and eventually obtained accreditation through the Arizona-based Commission on Accreditation and Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF) in 1992; Oklahoma officials then agreed to exempt Narconon from the state licensing requirement and the facility was allowed to operate.
In 1999, Scientologists from Clearwater, Florida tried to get a Narconon drug-education program installed into the Pinellas County, Florida school district. After a hearing on the matter, a school-district committee refused to allow students to participate in an anti-drug program based on the teachings of Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard, citing that teaching students about the "tone scale" and other trappings of Scientology was inappropriate for a drug-education program for their schools.
More recently, Narconon offered an anti-drug program to public schools in California, free of charge. A series of articles in the San Francisco Chronicle on June 9 and 10, 2004, resulted in California school officials investigating Narconon's claims. The study found that Narconon's program did not reflect medically and scientifically based practices and that it offered students misleading information about drug use and abuse. As a result of the investigation, on February 23, 2005, the state's superintendent of public instruction, Jack O'Connell, officially recommended that all schools in the state reject the Narconon program. O'Connell's secretary announced that the school systems in Los Angeles and San Francisco had dropped the program. The president of Narconon, Clark Carr, responded that the study presented only limited information about his organization's work, and that those efforts were "accurate and relevant to the current challenges children face with drugs."
While the effectiveness of their treatment program is a subject of dispute, a number of celebrities have publicly attested that it was helpful in their own lives. Musician Nicky Hopkins and actress Kirstie Alley both Scientologists, credited Narconon for their recovery from addiction to drugs and alcohol. Alley has since become a public spokesperson for Narconon.
By the end of 2005, according to the International Association of Scientologists, Narconon was operating 183 rehabilitation centres around the world. New centres opened in that year included Hastings, UK, and Stone Hawk, in Battle Creek, Michigan.
On July 17, 2006, one Narconon center, Narconon Trois-Rivieres (Three-Rivers) based in Canada, opened up a website at http://narcodex.ca. Narcodex is wiki purporting to contain drug information. The domain name of Narcodex.ca is owned by ABLE Canada, another Scientology business entity. The funding for the website comes entirely from Narconon Trois-Rivieres, which also controls the content on the site.
Narconon's treatment method
The "New Life Program" consists of two principal stages: "detoxification" and "rehabilitation." The "New Life Detoxification Program", adapted from Hubbard's Purification Rundown, involves a daily regimen of vitamins, oil and multi-minerals with special attention to the minerals magnesium and calcium and high dosages of niacin, plus exercise and lengthy sessions in a sauna.
The remainder of the Narconon course uses "training routines" or "TRs" originally devised by Hubbard to teach communications skills to Scientologists. In the Narconon variant, these courses claim to be designed to rehabilitate drug abusers. These training routines include TR 8, which 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.
Patients spend an average of 3 to 4 months in the Narconon facilities in the United States, for a fee which is different at every Narconon Center. The price ranges from $10,000 to about $30,000.
In 1984, a 34 year-old French woman named Jocelyne Dorfmann died from an untreated epilepsy crisis while undergoing treatment at a Narconon center in Grancey-sur-Ource (near Dijon). The assistant-director of that center was sentenced for lack of assistance to a person in danger and the Narconon center was closed. In Italy, a 33-year-old Italian female patient of the Narconon center in Torre dell'Orso died under similar conditions in 2002.
Since its establishment, Narconon has faced considerable controversy over the safety and effectiveness of its rehabilitation methods and the organization's links to the Church of Scientology. The medical profession has been sharply critical of Narconon's methods, which rely on theories of drug metabolism that are not widely supported. Particular criticism has been directed at the therapy's use of vitamins (including massive doses of niacin) and extended sauna sessions. Although Narconon claims a success rate of over 70%, no verifiable evidence for this appears to have been published by the organization, and independent researchers have found considerably lower rates — at least one website critical of Narconon claims that the rates were as low as 6.6% in the case of a Swedish research study.
Narconon is part of the Association for Better Living and Education (ABLE). Narconon refers frequently to its connection to L. Ron Hubbard and its website acknowledges that Narconon's name and logo are trademarks and service marks owned by ABLE and are used with its permission. In return for license of the trademarks from ABLE, Narconon centers pay 10% of their gross income to Narconon International.
Accusation-website graphics design/layout Plagiarism
State code violations
Narconon facilities in California were cited repeatedly for violations by state inspectors. Violations included administering medication without authorization, having alcohol on the facility, and not having proper bedding for clients. Narconon has also attempted to silence opposition, including sending letters to neighbors of a proposed facility in Leona Valley, California threatening legal action for criticism. Residents of the Leona Valley were concerned that Narconon would increase crime. The local town council recommended an eight foot security fence and independent security, which was objected to by Narconon officials.
On November 8, 2006, the Associated Press reported that Narconon was one of the Scientology groups that would pay back a total of 3.5 million dollars of illegal funds from EarthLink co-founder Reed Slatkin:
"Slatkin, who was once an ordained Scientology minister, paid $1.7 million from his scheme directly to Scientology groups, while millions of dollars more were funneled through other investors to groups affiliated with the church, bankruptcy trustee R. Todd Neilson said in court filings. Among the church groups to receive ill-gotten gains from Slatkin's scheme were Narconon International, the Church of Scientology Celebrity Centre International and the Church of Scientology Western United States, the filings said. The $3.5 million being returned by the church groups was the result of a negotiated compromise, Scientology attorney David Schindler and Alexander Pilmer, an attorney for Neilson, said." 
Narconon used in UK schools
The UK prisons ombudsman recommended to prison governors that Narconon rehabilitation programs not be used in prisons although some schools in the UK are using these programs; The Sunday Times said this was because schools are less aware of Narconon's links to the Church of Scientology.
Investigated in Russia
In April 2007, it was revealed that Moscow's South District office of public procurator had begun an investigation into Narconon's activities in Russia. The Moskovsky Komsomolets daily paper reported that legal proceedings were begun against the head of the clinic "Narconon-Standard", for violating bans in Russian medical practices. Russian law enforcement became interested after receiving many complaints from citizens about the high fees charged by Narconon. The Narconon office in Bolshaya Tulskaya St., Moscow was searched, and documents and unidentified medications were seized.
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- Church of Scientology supported sites
- Narconon International
- Purification Rundown site
- Drug Problems and Solutions regarding the Church of Scientology at the Open Directory Project
- NarCONon IS Scientology
- Narconon Drug Abuse Prevention Program Evaluation by the State of California.
- Narconon Exposed
- Operation Clambake Archive on Narconon (Operation Clambake)
- Stop Narconon (David S. Touretzky)