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Narconon FAQ
[Skeptics]

Written by Gisle Hannemyr <gisle@ifi.uio.no>

Below is a FAQ I have prepared on Narconon, the Scientology-based drug rehabilitation program whose main site is a 75 bed residential drug and alcohol treatment facility in Oklahoma.

     Narconon Chilocco
     Box 400
     Newkirk, Oklahoma 74647
     United States
    

The international HQ of Narconon is located in Los Angeles, California.

     Narconon International
     6255 Sunset Boulevard, Suite 2020
     Los Angeles, California,
     USA  90028
    

The answers below is based upon my own correspondence with Narconon staff, postings in the Usenet newsgroup "alt.religion.scientology", and promotional material supplied by Narconon themselves.

I have also used excerpts from the document "Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law on the Narconon Chilocco Application for Certification", Oklahoma State Board of Mental Health [OSB1992], based upon hearings (including witness testimony and exhibits) held in Oklahoma on October and December 1991. This document is interesting reading, and those interested should contact the Oklahoma State Board of Mental Health for the full version.

A heartfelt "thank you" to a number of individuals who helped provide background material for this note, and in particular to Brian Wenger who followed up a number of requests directly with Narconon after the organization has ceased to respond to my letters.




Quick Index

  1. Is the Narconon program safe?
  2. Is the Narconon program drug-free?
  3. Is the Narconon program in any way funded or sponsored by state or government in any European nations?
  4. What is the cost of the Narconon drug rehabilitation program?
  5. How long does it take to complete the Narconon drug rehabilitation program?
  6. It is true that the Narconon program is based upon the belief that addicts, when they are cured, can return to using the substances they have been addicted to?
  7. What sort of studies exist to substantiate the effectiveness of the Narconon program?
  8. What is the link between Scientology and Narconon?
References



1. Is the Narconon program safe?

The Oklahoma State Board of Mental Health concluded that: "No scientifically well-controlled studies were found that documented the safety of the Narconon program. There are potential dangers from the use of non-medical staff who may be unable to interpret the possibility of seizures, delerious, cardiac arrhythmia, or hallucinations that are phenomena associated with the cessation of drugs. There is also a potential risk of the reported reexperience of the abused drug effect during the sauna sweat out program may be the result of misinterpreted symptoms of hyperthermia or electrolyte imbalance. Moreover, the multiple findings of fact heretofore entered by the Board establish that Narconon's program is not safe." [OSB1992]

2. Is the Narconon program drug-free?

A glossy brochure titled "Narconon Drug Rehabilitation and Education Services"" [NAR1989] asserts that "[Narconon] is a totally drug-free, highly effective program to rehabilitate drug and alcohol abusers..." and the total absence of drugs in the program is repeatedly touted as one of main features of the program.

According to a testimonial given by Narconon's medical director, Dr. Ray Stowers, in an hearing in Oklahoma City on Oct. 24 1991, staff at the Narconon Chilocco New Life Center prescribe Valium and sedatives to patients going through difficult withdrawals.

Dr. Stowers also admitted that he occasionally had prescribed Valium and sedatives by phone to such patients. Handing out prescriptions of controlled and highly addictive substances such as Valium over the phone is usually not viewed as responsible medical practice.

3. Is the Narconon program in any way funded or sponsored by state or government in any European nations?

According to John Duff, the President of Narconon International:
In Sweden, the government donated the Narconon building, and local social boards have funded people through the program. In Switzerland, the program is usually 100% funded by social programs. In Holland, Denmark, Italy and Germany, some of the Narconon participants have been funded by the government.
However, no specific programs or agencies have been named. Several letters and faxes by myself to Narconon Chilocco specifically requesting such references have only been answered with letters containing standard promotional literature that does not give this information.

4. What is the cost of the Narconon drug rehabilitation program?

"It costs US$ 15000.- [[in 1992]] to get one person fully completed through the Narconon program Narconon Chilocco New Life Center in Oklahoma". [NAR1992].

[Yes, that's fifteen thousand dollars. It's not a typo. -- JSL]

5. How long does it take to complete the Narconon drug rehabilitation program?

"The program is completed when the individual has regained self-respect, is drug-free and has no desire to return to drug use. While this usually takes 12 weeks, there is no additional billings if it takes longer." [NAR1991]

In a follow-up on the Narconon discussion in this group, one correspondent related his personal experience with the Narconon program as follows:

"These people sucked me dry and spit me out like a watermelon seed."

6. It is true that the Narconon program is based upon the belief that addicts, when they are cured, can return to using the substances they have been addicted to?

Yes. The following excerpt is quoted from the Narconon course material used in the treatment of people addicted to alcohol (from the Narconon Chilocco's New Life Program, Part Eight: "The Way to Happiness Course", developed by L. Ron Hubbard) [HUB1989]:
"Be temperate{5} [...] Do not take alcohol to excess. [...] Alcohol has some medicinal value. It can be grossly overestimated. [...] A little liquor goes a long way; don't let too much of it wind up in unhappiness and death. Deter{6} people from excessive drinking."
-----
5) temperate: not going to extremes; not overdoing things; controlling one's cravings.
6) deter: to prevent or discourage.
The Oklahoma State Board of Mental Health concluded that: "Narconon clients are counseled by Narconon staff that it is acceptable for the client to drink alcohol after being discharged from the Narconon program and if the client is incapable of being able to drink alcohol, then this fact evidences the client's need for further treatment. Such counseling endangers the client's safety, health and/or the physical or mental well being, and is not in accord with acceptable drug and alcohol counseling and treatment." [OSB1992]

7. What sort of studies exist to substantiate the effectiveness of the Narconon program?

Narconon says in its literature that there have been two studies done of the effectiveness of their program:

  1. An independent 1981 Swedish study of 13 Narconon graduates, that showed that 76% of those that completed the Narconon Program were still drug free two years later.

  2. An independent Spanish study 50 Narconon graduates was conducted in Mar/Apr 1987 by "Técnicos Asociados de Investigación y Marketing" (TAIM) for the Ministry of Health and Social Services and showed that 70% of the graduates were drug-free two years later. It was headed by Dr. Esquerdo (105); TAIM, PDAL, 28007, Madrid, Spain. TAIM's telephone number is according to John Duff of Narconon International +34 1 273-7400.

According to John Duff, both studies were commisioned by Narconon, so Narconon seems to be slightly dishonest about the nature of these studies by claiming that they are "independent".

It should also be noted that TAIM is not at the address given, and not listed in any current Spanish phone directories or commercial directories. The phone number given by John Duff seems also to be out of use, so TAIM has either ceased trading or moved from the Madrid area.

The name of the organization responsible for the Swedish study is not known. Another curious thing about the Swedish statistics is that with 13 subjects there is no way you can get "76%".

[76.9% would be correct. -- TH]

Nothing is said about the source, duration or methodology used for either studies.

A "Swedish" and "Spanish" study is also quoted in the section on Narconon in the book "What is Scientology", giving amazingly accurate statistics for the programs effectiveness (84.6% and 78.37%, respectively). It is not clear whether this reference is to the same or to different studies.

[These are claimed to be the 1-year stats by milne@crl.com. -- TH]

For more than one year I have tried to locate these studies, but been unable to find them using ordinary libraries and academic sources. The TAIM study is supposedly on file with Narconon International and we may actually see a photocopy of it soon.

On the subject of studies the Oklahoma State Board of Mental Health concluded that:
"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." [OSB1992]


8. What is the link between Scientology and Narconon?

The words "Scientology" and "Dianetics" are carefully avoided in all Narconon promotional literature, and Narconon attempts to present itself as something separate from "Scientology" and "Dianetics". But the curriculum gives the game away. The Narconon "New Life" program is basically an eight part introduction to Scientology, as should be evident from the titles of the eight parts (all authored by founder of Scientology L. Ron Hubbard) that make up the full program:

Part 1: Therapeutic TR Course (TR = Training Routines, standard introductory level Scientology Course).

Part 2: Clear body, clear mind (the infamous purification rundown, involving exerise, 5 hour long sauna sessions, "Cal-Mag", (a laxative mixture of oil, vinegar, calcium and magnesium) and mega-doses of vitamins (including Niacin, a substance whose safety is disputed).

Part 3: Learning Improvement Course (the highlight of this is learning "how to fully use a dictionary").

Part 4: Communication & Perception Course (standard Scientology fare). Part 5: Ups & Downs in Life Course (all about anti-social personalities and how to spot them. Clue: these dangerous individuals are not overly enthusiastic about Scientology or the semi-godhood of L. Ron Hubbard).

Part 6: Personal Values and Integrity Course (more about the Scientology perspective on ethics).

Part 7: Changing Conditions in Life Course (standard Scientology fare).

Part 8: The Way to Happiness Course (Individual ethics. Hubbard's hack rewrite of the Ten Commandments -- with footnotes. Makes you realize what a piece of great writing the Old Testament is.)

The Oklahoma State Board of Mental Health observed that:
"The vast majority of time spent in the Narconon treatment plan and course work does not in any way relate to or involve education about drug and alcohol abuse treatment, issues, and/or addictions." [OSB1992]
Narconon International share the Los Angeles address and suite number of ABLE (Association for Better Living and Education). ABLE is a well known Scientology front organization.

References:

[HUB1989]: L. Ron Hubbard: "The Way to Happiness", Bridge Publications, 1989.

[NAR1989]: "Narconon Drug Rehabilitation and Education Services" (32-page glossy brochure).

[NAR1991]: "Narconon Chilocco New Life Center" (turquoise 1991 1-page brochure).

[NAR1992]: "Narconon Chilocco New Life Center" (1992 4-page brochure).

[OSB1992]: "Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law on the Narconon Chilocco Application for Certification", Oklahoma State Board of Mental Health. (Click here for the full version of this document.)

TH: Tilman Hausherr
JSL: Jeff Lee



This page is maintained by Jeff Lee <godfrey@shipbrook.net>

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