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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.[1] 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.


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.[2] His work was supported by Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard, and in 1972 Hubbard sponsored the incorporation of Narconon as an organization.[3] 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.[3]

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.[4] 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.[5] 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."[6] 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.[7] 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.[8]

Its affiliation with the Church of Scientology has made Narconon itself a focus of controversy.[9] 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).[10] 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.[11][12] 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.[13][14] 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.[14] The Herald noted numerous other instances over the years where reporters were harassed with "noisy investigations" after writing stories exposing the Church's misdeeds.[14]

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.[15]

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.[16] The Oklahoma Department of Health demanded that Narconon be licensed with the state,[17] 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."[18] 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."[19] 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.[20]

21st century

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.[21] 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.[22] 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."[21]

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[23] 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.[24]

On July 17, 2006, one Narconon center, Narconon Trois-Rivieres (Three-Rivers) based in Canada, opened up a website at[25] Narcodex is wiki purporting to contain drug information. The domain name of 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.[26]

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,[27] 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.[28] 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.[29][30] Former Scientologists say that the purpose of the drill is for the individual to "beam" their "intention" into the ashtray to make it move.[31]

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.[32]


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[33] 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.[34]


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.[11][35] 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.[36]


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.[1]

Accusation-website graphics design/layout Plagiarism

In January 2001, Narconon came under fire when they appeared to copy the entire layout and site design of the webzine for their websites and, among others.[37] The editor of Urban75 posted up comparisons of the copying, showing that Narconon had not even removed Urban75s hidden javascript code, unique to Urban75.[38] The Register noted the irony of this scandal, quoting a critic who wrote, "Scientology has sued countless individuals and organizations putatively for 'copyright violation' and the organization claims loudly that they're at the 'forefront of protecting proprietary information on the Internet'."[39] After pressure from Urban75 readers, Narconon eventually removed the copied layout, but never responded to queries about the site nor admitted any copying.

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.[40] The local town council recommended an eight foot security fence and independent security, which was objected to by Narconon officials.[41]

Slatkin fraud

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." [1]

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.[42]

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.[43] 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.[43] Russian law enforcement became interested after receiving many complaints from citizens about the high fees charged by Narconon.[43] The Narconon office in Bolshaya Tulskaya St., Moscow was searched, and documents and unidentified medications were seized.[43]

In April 2008, as part of an investigation in Ulyanovsk into the Church of Scientology, police searched a Narconon office in the town of Dimitrovgrad.[44]

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 "Narconon license agreement". Narconon International. Association for Better Living and Education. Archived from the original on March 18, 2005.
  2. Narconon The Origins of the Narconon Program (accessed June 4, 2006)
  3. 3.0 3.1 Narconon "L. Ron Hubbard and the Narconon program" (accessed June 4, 2006)
  4. Stephen Koff "Top Scientologist Arrested in Spain" St. Petersburg Times November 22, 1988 pg. 1A
  5. Steven Koff "Scientology leader still jailed in Spain; church charges 'persecution'" St. Petersburg Times December 10, 1988
  6. Ruth Gruber "75 Scientologists go on trial today // 'It should be a lively court session'" St. Petersburg Times March 29, 1989 pg. 11.A
  7. World Religion News Service, April 11, 2002
  8. "Spanish court drops charges against Scientology chief after 14 years", Agence France Presse, April 11, 2002
  9. Marie Price "House nixes honor for substance-abuse facility: The treatment center sparks controversy because of its ties to Scientology" Tulsa World May 3, 2003 pg A19
  10. United States vs. Mary Sue Hubbard et al., 493 F. Supp. 209, (D.D.C. 1979) (hosted by the Lisa McPherson Trust)
  11. 11.0 11.1 Charles Rusnell Experts challenge claims of Scientology's sweat-it-out treatment for addicts The Edmonton Journal, May 23, 2006 pg. A2
  12. Alan McEwen "Scientology-link group is banned", Edinburgh Evening News, 18 March 2004 (accessed June 4, 2006)
  13. Mallia, Joseph (1998-03-03). "Scientology reaches into schools through Narconon". Inside the Church of Scientology. Boston Herald. Retrieved 2008-12-14.
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 Jim MacLaughlin and Andrew Gully "Church of Scientology probes Herald reporter - Investigation follows pattern of harassment" Boston Herald March 19, 1998 Pg. 004
  15. "Narconon Information Center of Montreal". Retrieved 2006-10-07. "© Copyright 2006 Lafleche Dumais & Richard Kelly Narconon FSM."
  16. Bob Lobsinger "Chilocco Drug Treatment Center May Be Part of Notorious Religious Cult" Newkirk Herald Journal April 27, 1989 (hosted by David Touretzky)
  17. McNutt, Michael "Narconon Claims It's Not Subject to State Regulation". Daily Oklahoman July 11, 1990 (hosted by David Touretzky)
  18. Findings of Fact regarding the Narconon-Chilocco Application For Certification by the Board of Mental Health, State of Oklahoma, 13 December 1991 (hosted by David Touretzky)
  19. "Town Welcomes, Then Questions a Drug Project". New York Times (The New York Times Company): p. A13. 1989-07-17.
  20. Shelby Oppel "School panel rejects anti-drug program" Saint Petersburg Times April 13, 1999
  21. 21.0 21.1 Cavanagh, Sean (2 March 2005). Education Week 24 (25): 4.
  22. "Schools urged to drop antidrug program", The San Francisco Chronicle, 23 February 2005. (accessed June 4, 2006)
  23. Sappell, Joel; Welkos, Robert W. (1990-06-25). "The Courting of Celebrities". Los Angeles Times: p. A18:5.,1,279442.story?coll=la-news-comment. Retrieved 2006-06-06. Additional convenience link at
  24. "IAS 21st Anniversary Event, Impact 112, 2006
  25. "Whois:". DomainTools. Retrieved 16 August 2010.
  26. "?".
  27. Hubbard Communication Office Bulletin of 6 February 1978RD
  28. Church of Scientology The Fundamental Skills of Auditing: Hubbard Professional TR Course (accessed June 4, 2006)
  29. Hubbard, Narconon Communication & Perception Course Book 4a, 2004 edition. (pg. 447-482)
  30. Joseph Mallia "Inside the Church of Scientology; Sacred teachings not secret anymore" Boston Herald March 4, 1998 pg. 025
  31. Janet Reitman Inside Scientology Rolling Stone, Issue 995. March 9, 2006.
  32. Leigh Woolsley "Case for the Cure", Tulsa World, 6 November 2005 pg. D-1
  33. County Court of Dijon: judgment of January 9, 1987 (No 118-87)
  34. Template:It Italian newspaper La Repubblica, October 11, 2002
  35. Marc Sommer "Addiction Specialists Criticize Detoxification Program" Buffalo News February 1, 2005, pg A6
  36. Template:Cite paper (Scans hosted by David Touretzky)
  37. Thomas C. Greene "Scientologist Web site rips off Moneyed cult gets hip in the worst way" The Register, 22 January 2001 (accessed June 4, 2006)
  38. Urban75 "Narconon and urban75 - the ultimate homage" (accessed June 4, 2006)
  39. Lester Haines "Scientology exposé finds favour" The Register January 26, 2001 (accessed June 4, 2006)
  40. Dobuzinskis, Alex. "Proposed Narcanon rehab clinic raises concern among residents." Los Angeles Daily News, July 22, 2006. "?".
  41. Slutske, Reina. "Narconon Project Hearing Delayed Until January." Santa Clarita Signal, October 5, 2006. "?".
  42. "Revealed: how Scientologists infiltrated Britain's schools". The Sunday Times (UK). 7 January 2007.,,2087-2535187.html. Retrieved 2007-01-07.
  43. 43.0 43.1 43.2 43.3 Staff (2007-04-06). "Proceedings against Scientologists-run clinic instituted in Moscow". Interfax-Religion.
  44. "Ulyanovsk police search local branch office of Church of Scientology". Interfax-Religion. 2008-04-18.

External links

Church of Scientology supported sites


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