Narconon vs. traditional treatment for drug addiction

First off, let me preface by saying I am not an expert in addiction counseling. I do, however, have over a decade of experience dealing with people at Narconon and experience being in recovery via traditional treatments.

The big difference: Honesty
The main difference I see between Narconon and traditional treatment is simple: Honesty.

From the minute a person in need or their family tries to get help via Narconon they are lied to at every step of the intake process. It starts with the most common way people search for help: the internet. Narconon has literally thousands of generic-looking websites that say they can help place you in the most appropriate rehab for free. The reality of it is that these sites are made, owned, and operated by people whose sole mission is to funnel the person to a Narconon. They get paid very handsomely for this, usually about $3000 per person.

Traditional rehabs get referrals from legitimate agencies such as courts, hospitals, and licensed therapists. They don’t do this for financial gain, as far as I know. I’ve never heard of drug courts or emergency room doctors getting commissions for referring someone to rehab.

The 2nd lie: the Nature of the Program
The second lie told to a person entering a Narconon is usually about the nature of the program itself. Narconon was developed to funnel people into the Church of Scientology, using methods developed by an unqualified science fiction writer.

The entirety of the Narconon Program can be found in Scientology Scriptures. These Scriptures state a totally different purpose than what they are said to be used for in Narconon. In Scientology, they are used to train what are called “auditors” and spiritually enlighten a person on their predetermined path called “The Bridge to Total Freedom”. In Narconon, you are lead to believe that Narconon has nothing to do with Scientology. This is a lie that is told over and over and over, so many times that they themselves believe it. Any third grader can compare the two and tell you they are the same, but in a time of crisis people do not check, or they are desperate for a solution. Narconon knows this and exploits it. Traditional rehabs will tell you up front what they are, who they are funded by, and your realistic chances of success.

Traditional Rehab
What is traditional rehab? Traditional rehab is any therapy that is an accepted, tried, and true method to get someone off drugs or alcohol. It has been scientifically studied by qualified, unbiased professionals.

The most popular type of rehab method is that of Alcohol Anonymous (AA) or Narcotics Anonymous (NA). AA is a program that was developed by two men who were hard-core alcoholics and had simply had enough of their addictions. One was a doctor and the other a financial analyst. The program is spiritual in nature but there is no enforcement of one type of belief. It is 12 very simple, easy to understand steps. NA is similar to AA, with a focus on drugs instead of alcohol. Both are free to anyone in need, as well.

Another type of therapy is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, or CBT. It is thought modification, basically thinking before you act. Some employ hypnosis, exercise, nutrition, suboxone, methadone, or relocation as a means to overcome addiction.

A “Cure” for Addiction?
Most professionals in the field agree that addiction is a bona-fide disease that you will have for the rest of your life. This is where Narconon differs greatly. They believe that you can be cured completely. They are so confident in their program that it is built right in to their methodology that you are able to drink in moderation. I personally questioned this several times while working at Narconon and was met with a quite Scientological response: “We cannot change the tech.”

You see, to Scientologists, L. Ron Hubbard’s word is the law and no one can change it. No one. No doctor or agency that has actually studied the disease knows better than Hubbard, according to Scientologists.

Narconon describes itself as a “Social Education Model” of addiction therapy. To date, there has been no scientific study on the efficacy of their methods, yet there are quite a few studies which show that the methodology does not work. The only endorsements they have are from fellow Scientologists who happen to be doctors or researchers. I know this to be fact as I put one of them through the program and they later did a very official sounding study that supported the program. You will find no other studies other than these to support Narconon’s claim of a 70-90% success rate. This is actually absurd to professionals with actual degrees and real experience in the field.

More contrasts: A Typical Day
A typical day in traditional rehab is filled with lectures about addiction, videos about addiction, readings about addiction, nutrition, coping with stress, light exercises, one-on-one counselling, group therapy, and a supportive, encouraging environment.

A typical day in Narconon is learning Scientology Scriptures masked as addiction treatment for 12 hours a day. Make no mistake about it, the only thing you are learning in Narconon is how to become a Scientologist, nothing about addiction and how to cope with it. In my 13 years on staff there was never one lecture about addiction, never one session of one-on-one counseling by a licensed counselor, never one group therapy session, never one lecture or video shown about addiction, nutrition, or coping skills. I repeat, NONE. I worked at the biggest, most productive Narconons on Planet Earth: There was never one instance of accepted practices done to treat the disease of addiction in any of them.

How can this be?
Narconon and Scientology are looked down on by most of society due to their unprofessional, predatory, and abusive nature. It’s been my experience with licensing agencies that they are afraid to call BS on either because Scientology and Narconon are so litigious in nature and they play dirty when people criticize them. A search of the internet will show what lengths they are willing to go to in silencing people. I, for one, have been targeted with a smear website in my name. I have also been “disconnected” from people I have known for years that I thought were real friends.

You see, when you learn the truth about Narconon and Scientology, it upsets you that you were part of it, or else were about to be scammed by them. It makes you want to speak out and fight against them. Luckily, many people are speaking, and it is only a matter of time before the Narconons are shut down or forced to reveal who and what they really are. In the meantime, critics do what they can to get the truth out. They do it for free and they do it at great risk of their personal and financial freedom.

If you’re in need of help, either for yourself or someone else, I certainly hope you make the right choice and seek real, honest help. To be completely honest, it’s not an easy road. It’s filled with misery, pain, and sometimes death. Wouldn’t you rather that you or your loved one be prepared correctly to travel this road? I sure as hell wish I would have been.

M e m o s

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  1. Ann From the Desk of...

    Great post! Thank you, Eric!

    It’s good to have your take on the licensing agency problem. I and others I’ve talked to have often wondered why it’s so difficult to get the agencies who are supposed to oversee rehabs, and therefore the well-being of others, to take action against Narconon’s violations. Sorry to have our suspicions confirmed that it’s due to the spinelessness of our government employees. That is not the kind of attitude this country was founded upon. When tax-paying citizens pay these agencies and their employees to do a job that they don’t and won’t do, it just puts the burden of doing their jobs on the backs of people like us. Thank you for helping.

    • From the Desk of...

      Thanks for being diligent with calling out this organization. i almost sent my son to the Redwood Cliffs facility until I read reviews on Narconon. If you have any recommendations for in-patient dual treatment, please let me know.

      • Ann From the Desk of...

        I am glad there were reviews for you to read, Susan, and glad you did your research first, too. I’m sorry I don’t have any recommendations, and I actually avoid making them, since I have no way to vet the facilities first. My best suggestion is to read this page: How to Choose a Drug or Alcohol Rehab, and the ones that follow, Researching a Rehab Facility and How to Check Credentials, and carefully evaluate anywhere you consider. There are a lot of good links to other sites on those pages as well.

        Another suggestion is to make sure any dual diagnosis treatment center you choose actually has at least one licensed psychiatrist on staff. “Dual diagnosis” is a “buzz word” that’s currently in vogue and some of the less legitimate centers are using the word when they shouldn’t be. Good luck in finding the right place!

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