What Is Narconon?

What is Narconon?

Why should I be concerned?

Have you attended a Narconon program? Please consider doing the Narconon Survey here: http://reachingforthetippingpoint.net/narcononsurvey/

Narconon has been receiving some bad press lately. Most recently, there have been news stories about 3 deaths within a 7 month period at Narconon Arrowhead in Oklahoma: on the forum, read Narconon Oklahoma Multiple Deaths, and the death of Patrick W. Desmond at Narconon of Georgia: on the forum, read The Desmond Family v. Narconon of Georgia, Narconon International, et al.

Court filings from the Patrick Desmond case can be viewed and downloaded here: Desmond v. Narconon.

Unfortunately, those are not the only deaths. Deaths have occured throughout Narconon's history. There is an incomplete list in the thread Narconon Deaths.

You would think that, if something as serious as death continues to occur with a particular rehab method, the methods should be changed to incorporate safer and more modern practices. Narconon does not do this, but instead has the attitude that their program is authoritative, and if problems occur, the problem is with the client, not with Narconon. Nothing could be further from the truth.

More About Narconon

Narconon is a controversial drug rehabilitation program based on the ideas of L. Ron Hubbard, a science fiction writer and founder of the Church of Scientology. Many people believe that Narconon is simply a front group for Scientology with the purpose of making money and recruiting new members for Scientology. Although Narconon is recognized as a non-profit 501(c) (3) organization, it does charge for services.

For information about other Scientology-run front groups, visit our What is Scientology? page.

Narconon’s ties to Scientology are not disclosed or readily available to its clients who are making a decision on treatment for drug addiction at a vulnerable time in their lives. Additionally, Narconon’s doctrines and organization are nearly identical to Scientology’s.

Narconon has an aggressive web presence and registers web sites with misleading names, which are presented as objective reviews of drug rehab centers but are actually used as advertisements for Narconon.

When many people hear the name "Narconon," they think it is another name for Narcotics Anonymous. It isn't.

  • The Narcotics Anonymous (NA) website clearly shows that NA does not charge for services, does not provide residential facilities or clinics, does not provide vocational, legal, financial, psychiatric, or medical services, and is not affiliated with other organizations. Facts about NA can be found here: http://www.na.org/?ID=Home-basicinfo
    The Narcotics Anonymous (NA) website uses factual and informative language: http://www.na.org/, and most of their publications are available for free: http://www.na.org/?ID=ips-eng-index
  • Narconon, on the other hand, uses a highly structured, one-size-fits-all program, which parallels the training sold to members of Scientology: http://www.narconon.org/drug-rehab/narconon-drug-rehabilitation-program.html
    The Narconon website uses emotionally charged, marketing-style language: http://www.narconon.org/. No publications are available for free: http://www.narconon.org/bookstore/.
  • Find out more about the relationship between Narconon and Scientology here: http://www.cs.cmu.edu/~dst/Narconon/nn-scn.htm
  • Narconon has an aggressive web presence, including a large number of referral sites that present themselves as unbiased referrals who will refer you to the best rehab for your specific needs, but somehow, Narconon turns out to be "the best" for everyone's needs who contacts them. There are also generic-appearing blogs, which are intended to direct people to Narconon. Phone numbers tie to specific people, known as Field Staff Members (FSMs, a Scientology term), who refer visitors to Narconon, and provide them with a commission of 5% to 10% of the total fees paid to Narconon. There are screenshots from a video teaching how to set up one of these blogs here: http://forum.reachingforthetippingpoint.net/index.php/topic,368.msg2196.html#msg2196

What else is wrong with Narconon?

Hubbard, who co-founded Narconon in 1966, had no medical qualifications and was ignorant of basic medical facts. Despite advances in research on treatment of alcoholism and substance abuse, the Narconon program remains unchanged. Narconon uses unproven techniques and potentially dangerous levels of vitamins far beyond those considered safe by the FDA. For instance, Narconon prescribes niacin in dosages reaching 5,000 mgs to their clients. The daily recommended intake by the FDA is 20 milligrams. When doses this high are given, serious side effects can occur. These side effects include liver problems, gout, stomach ulcers, loss of vision, high blood sugar, irregular heart rate and other problems. These side effects are particularly concerning for patients who may be more vulnerable to liver damage as a result of alcoholism or drug addiction.

What about Narconon staff?

Narconon often employs former clients who have recently completed the program. This is a huge risk for newly recovering clients. It is not unusual for former alcoholics or addicts to enter the counseling field. However, this is usually after an established period of sobriety and formal training or certification as a substance abuse counselor has been completed. This is not the case at Narconon. In addition, Narconon of Georgia was recently cited for inappropriate monitoring of drug screens on clients and employees.

Criminon Second Chance, and other Narconon affiliates

Criminon Second Chance is a prison-based version of Narconon that seeks public funding for the program. Criminon Second Chance was evicted from Alberqueue, New Mexico after breaking an agreement with the City. They were allowed to operate a facility in an old jail to house nonviolent male inmates with a history of substance abuse problems, but were found to be housing violent offenders and women inmates also. After being given a notice to comply with the agreement, they left secretively in the middle of the night with 19 inmates in an old bus, leaving their rent and utility bills unpaid. Scientology promotes this front organization without revealing the connection to Narconon or Scientology. Read more about Criminon Second Chance here: http://forum.reachingforthetippingpoint.net/index.php/page,Criminon.html

In order to avoid the bad reputation that is developing from public exposure of the Narconon program, some "Sauna Detox" programs are using names which do not include "Narconon", but use the same L. Ron Hubbard and Scientology techniques and course material for the program. For addictions that require it, some Narconon-affiliated programs use a medical detox procedure first, and then refer people on to a more standard Narconon-style sauna detox with Scientology-based coursework. Some of these include (but are not limited to) generic names like New Life and First Step, Pur Detox, and Best Drug Rehab; and more specific sounding names like Sunshine Summit Lodge, Huntington Harbor House, Novus Detox, and Suncoast Rehab Center.

Finding a good, legitimate rehab facility

If you are seeking a drug rehab facility, the most important thing you can do is to research the facility by name. Once you have narrowed down to a few that you are considering, check with the agency in the state or country that licenses drug rehab facilities about prior violations and license revocations for the specific facilities. Ask for specifics about the program - exactly what the program entails, how long it will last, who the program director is and what their qualifications are, who the medical director is, what the policy is with regard to employment of counselors and other staff members, and ask to tour the facility first before signing anything. Ask advice on some of the discussion forums that specialize in drug and alcohol rehab. Ask advice from people you know. The main thing you want to do is avoid being in a hurry and not thoroughly researching the facility you choose. There are good programs out there - they may just not be the first ones you find when you search the web.

Are you still considering going to Narconon? Before you decide, please read about the experiences of someone who's been there: My Narconon Story, by Sekh

Have questions, comments, or information?

Talk to us here in the Reaching for the Tipping Point forum: Narconon and related groups

Printable literature?

A trifold flyer with information about Narconon is available here: http://www.reachingforthetippingpoint.net/NarcononFlyer-2010-06-11.pdf

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