Narconon has reportedly completed renovations to its “Freedom Center” in Michigan, allowing it to now house up to 100 recovering drug users. The news would be excellent if we were talking about any other organization, as more treatment options are always a good thing in the world of drug and alcohol addiction, but sadly the fact that this particular organization is expanding its operations is actually bad news. Narconon’s programs are unproven, a transparent front for pushing users into Scientology, and even actively bad for you. They claim a success rate of 70 percent, but the truth is that their evidence supporting these claims is extremely lacking. It isn’t just about ineffective treatment, though, since the Arrowhead center is actually under investigation for a string of deaths there, the story might be about to get a whole lot dirtier.
Narconon’s Misunderstandings of Science, Addiction Treatment and Basic Morality
Narconon’s treatment methods are so incredibly flawed that there is an entire mini-website dedicated to explaining the numerous scientific inaccuracies. These are far too numerous to explain in detail here, but the shorthand version is that it’s based on an incorrect assumption that drugs are stored in fat cells and can be expelled through copious sweating. This leads to a program primarily composed of exercising in ridiculously hot suits, taking mega-doses of vitamins, and sitting in saunas, which is adapted verbatim from the Church of Scientology’s “Purification Rundown.”
The links between Scientology and Narconon are well established, and can be seen through the similarity in the doctrines, staffing, and more overt connections between the two with regards to things such as funding. The Narconon program is an ineffective treatment method based on junk science, and it appears to be nothing other than an indoctrination method into the church of Scientology. The accusations of neglect and the investigations that are underway at several Narconon facilities seem to add evidence to the fact that the staff members don’t always have the addict’s best interests at heart.
Stockpiling Drug Users
Sadly, these facts are hidden underneath pseudo-scientific nonsense and hyperbolic marketing catch phrases, and many users still use Narconon to try and get clean. This puts the news that Narconon has expanded their facilities into perspective. It simply allows more people in need of help to surrender themselves to unprofessional care, adding to the mammoth Arrowhead center (in Oklahoma) which can hold up to 200 patients. The patients are free to choose to attend the center, of course, but anybody with knowledge of their practices will recognize the expansion for the bad news it is. Accordingly, the news has been met with new criticism from mental health professionals.
Clearly, their approach is generating success for them; otherwise the huge expenditure of expanding their facilities would have been out of the question. Instead of disappearing into the annals of history with out-dated junk science treatments like bloodletting, the Narconon sweat-letting detoxification and accompanying Scientology brainwashing program is actually building a larger and larger residential clientele.
70 Percent Success Rate
The claims of high success rates are obviously one of the most appealing things about the Narconon program, but even basic mathematical scrutiny of the studies reveals that they’re deeply flawed, if not making up statistics altogether. In one case, the quoted percentage of drug-free participants doesn’t actually translate to a whole number of people when combined with information about the study’s participants. The study is used to claim success rates of over 70 percent, but the research actually found that 77 percent of enrollees didn’t even finish the course, and only 6.6 percent of the total sample managed to stay drug free for a year afterward. In other words, it is pretty ineffective as a treatment overall, even according to studies they quote in their marketing materials.
Fighting Junk Addiction Science
The expansion of the Narconon facility should be a wake-up call for everybody passionate about evidence-based treatment for addiction. Information is the only weapon in the fight against erroneous claims and misinterpretations of the facts, and the more people who learn the truth about Narconon, the better. The field of drug addiction treatment is particularly susceptible to this type of misguided practice, and in the absence of protective legislation, the most important thing is to encourage those considering Narconon rehabilitation to learn more before cramming into the newly expanded center.
Narconon paves the road to its centers with deceit, misinformation, and false promises. Although they claim to be a genuine, medically sound rehabilitation provider, they are anything but that. They primarily employ ex-program users or Church of Scientology members to administer a dangerous detoxification program followed by a bizarre psychological treatment program. L. Ron Hubbard might have written some lasting science fiction, but hopefully the legacy he’s left in the world of drug addiction treatment will crumble in the coming years.