Why don’t people research Narconon first, before they go or send someone there?

In response to our post yesterday about the new lawsuit against Narconon Fresh Start, we got a shout out from Tony Ortega’s blog. We like that. {grin} We like Tony and his Underground Bunker. We also think it was very perceptive of Tony to pick up on this, as I did (me being in Georgia myself, I couldn’t miss it):

What’s particularly frustrating about this lawsuit is that in April 2013 when the plaintiff, Dan Kelly, fell for Narconon’s come-on and flew to the San Diego facility, he was living in Georgia — yes, right where Narconon was going through one of its worst meltdowns ever.

To be honest, the Georgia coverage wasn’t all that prominent here — it was big news to us because we were watching for it, but, as much as I love Pete Combs, Jodie Fleishman, and Christian Boone for doing it, it was pretty much limited to one talk radio station, one broadcast TV channel, and an Atlanta newspaper that’s not the main paper that people read out in Walton County, Ga. I can easily see how the Kellys and Voiculescus would have missed it.

Then Tony O asked the question:

Don’t these people use the Google?

This is something I’ve wondered about before, and also heard many people ask in different ways. Sometimes people just wonder out loud, as Tony did. Sometimes, people are ruder: “Are people so stupid they don’t check into it first?” And sometimes, I’ve even seen a few people be so calloused as to say, “They deserve whatever they get, when the information is out there and they don’t even bother to look.”

What?! People deserve what they get from Narconon?!

No, they don’t. Nobody does.

Since getting more involved on the Narconon exposure side of things, I’ve softened my views significantly toward the people who get taken in by the Narconon scam, just as those of you who know how scientology really operates don’t blame the people who joined scientology and then later, sometimes years later, left. This attitude about Narconon’s victims is something I’ve been meaning to address for a while, and I thank Tony for prompting me to do it now.

But first, a parable.

The Story of Jane, the Rant Blogger, and Big Payday, the Evil Payment Processor

Jane loved to write, and was highly opinionated on several topics, so one day she decided to start a blog. She wasn’t web-savvy, but her friend Joe was. Joe loved the way Jane ranted; once she got going, she was something to hear. So Joe set up a blog for her at Cheap Overseller Host, and things were great for Jane.

She called it “Jane’s Daily Rant”. Jane slowly gathered a collection of fans and “haters” who commented on her rants and shared them with others. She had “Share” links on her site, and that helped to increase her audience. Jane was thrilled.

One day, Cheap Overseller Host told Jane that she needed a bigger account because her blog had grown too big. Jane paid for the next level account, but wondered if she should start collecting donations so her rant blog could be self-supporting. She did a search for “blog donations” and every link she got back in the results pointed to “Big Payday Donations Button.”

She had seen the button on the Big Blogger sites, everyone she talked to said Big Payday was the way to go, and there was a link to an easy sign-up on the Big Payday site right at the top. So she signed up, and added the button to her site. (During Jane’s time as an emerging rant blogger, Joe had shown her how to do a thing or two with her blog.)

Donations started trickling in, slowly at first, then enough so that her goal of paying for the blog with donations was achieved, and she was even accruing some extra in her account.

One day, Jane’s Daily Rant struck a nerve. The post was shared on Facebook, Twitter, StumbleUpon, Google+, Reddit, and every other sharing site known to the internet. The Rant went viral! Donations poured in, such was the passion people had for the subject.

Jane’s host notified her that she had gone over her bandwidth for the month in only one day, and that unless she paid the charges, her blog account would be suspended. No problem, Jane thought, I’ll use the extra donation money.

It was then that she discovered that her Big Payday account had been frozen because of the sudden increase in donations. Jane was horrified! Frantic! She couldn’t afford to pay the web host on her own! How could this happen, right at this moment when she was experiencing her biggest increase in popularity and donations??

Big Payday’s support team was unresponsive. Jane started searching the web, looking for answers, but this time using the terms “Big Payday” and “account frozen”. It was only then that she discovered the thousands of people who felt cheated by Big Payday, the sites warning about Big Payday’s abusive suspensions, and how people had been ruined by having their money frozen in their account, as if they were common criminals.

It took Jane a while to get her account with Big Payday straightened out. Meanwhile, her blog remained closed. She quit writing her daily rants since she had no way for anyone to donate, and no where to publish them anyway.

After a while, most people forgot about Jane and her rants, but the ones who didn’t said she was stupid, and the cruelest ones (the “haters” from her comments section) said she deserved what she got, for not researching Big Payday better to begin with.

Back to Narconon and their victims.

Narconon gets its clients from one of two basic demographics. One: A family member or other loved one seeking a rehab for someone they love. Two: A person with a substance abuse problem seeking a rehab for themselves. Whichever category the person who finds Narconon falls into, the one most important thing on their mind right then is finding help, finding a way to end the substance abuse cycle.

If it’s a family member or loved one, in addition to dealing with the substance abuser, they may also be dealing with a job or a business, other family members (children or elderly parents), their daily existence, and keeping active with their friends and hobbies to try to keep some normal semblance of their own life. If it’s the substance abuser themself, they may be dealing with all the things above, secondary to their own addiction that demands more and more on a daily basis. Most people who haven’t had this experience don’t realize the level of desperation a person feels when they have an addict, a substance abuser, a chemically dependent person in their life.

The family members are usually just regular people who use the internet in ways that ordinary people do – news, banking, purchases, keeping up with their family and personal friends on Facebook, and looking for services when they need them.

Most people are not members of communities and special interest groups, the way many of us in the anti-scientology community are. Let’s face it, we critics of scientology are a special group of people — informed in ways most people aren’t, and with critical thinking skills and a special cynicism most people don’t possess. I know this because I talk to the general public at work, in my neighborhood, and at places I do business. Just regular people. The general public. The general public looks up things on the internet when they need them, not as a matter of interest (or obsession in some cases, LOL!) the way many of us do.

So a person comes to the slow and dreadful realization that they or their loved one needs to go to rehab and quit abusing drugs or alcohol, or else they’re going to wind up in jail, somehow ruining their life otherwise, or worse, dead, if they don’t get help. They turn to the web and start looking. But they’re not looking for ways they might get scammed; they’re looking, somewhat blinded by their distress, for help.

And what do they find, in their search results for drug or alcohol rehab?

A dizzying array of sites, all promising that they’re the answer to the problem. Many of these are referral sites, whose purpose is to list treatment centers and help people find one that’s right for them. If they happen to hit on one of Narconon’s referral sites, according to the advisor, there’s only one place that will work — Narconon (whatever name it’s going by at the time of contact).

There is very little, if any, helpful information in the search results, mostly all these places offering treatment “that works”, luxury surroundings, all who claim they are the place to go, the best. And some of the ones at the top of the results are even more expensive than Narconon, if you don’t know about the hidden costs of Narconon (that is, at best, you’re just wasting your money). Every one and his brother seem to have jumped on the bandwagon and opened a rehab. Even Eric Clapton has a rehab, and I will say, that place does sound good.

It’s a confusing mess, even for people who aren’t searching in a state of desperation.

Narconon is slick. Their websites look good, even if somewhat ordinary and look-alike, and they have the right words to attract the searchers — never mind that those words don’t describe what Narconon actually does. Once one of their registrars snags a person, they will tell them whatever they want to hear — even if it’s a lie. These days, they avoid using Narconon as a part of the name — instead using names like Fresh Start instead of Narconon Southern California, Redwood Cliffs instead of Narconon Vista Bay, Emerald Pines instead of Narconon South Tahoe, Rainbow Retreat instead of Narconon Nevada, and Sunshine Summit Lodge instead of Narconon San Diego.

Then you throw in the specific wants of people: non 12-step (ironically, some don’t want 12-step because they think it’s a cult!), holistic (whatever that is), no-drug withdrawal (not practical or safe in all cases), natural (sounds good, but what’s natural about getting off of using a chemical substance?), and all the other buzz words of the day, which most people don’t have any knowledge of what they really mean. People would like for things that sound good to them to work, but it just ain’t that way. Just because it’s true for you doesn’t mean it’s true… or that it works. Recovering from addiction is hard work, and it’s probably gonna hurt.

To top it all off, most people have an expectation that government licensing agencies do what they’re supposed to do, and regulate these places. The more people rely on the government, instead of themselves, to vet the foods they eat, the services they use, and the health care that they need — and people are doing that more and more every day — the more they fall victim to the unscrupulous, such as Narconon. We know Narconon has gotten away with the same things for the past 20 years or more. Seldom has one been shut down, although there are a couple that have been recently, and more coming, I hope, but people depend on the government to regulate rehabs, and they just don’t. We know they don’t, and it’s not just Narconon; it’s become a huge problem in the field.

Who can you trust for drug or alcohol rehab? I sure don’t know, and I’m aware of all this stuff — who can blame someone who isn’t, who is desperate and just needs help NOW?

Isn’t it kind of like blaming a woman who got raped for bringing it on herself?

See, we’re looking at the side of the telephone pole on which all the handbills are posted. I wish people would research first, too, but the ordinary Jane with a chemically dependent son is approaching the pole from a whole different direction. She doesn’t see the notices posted that we see; she can’t. Go easy on her — and on all of them.

M e m o s

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  1. From the Desk of...

    So, I have a loved one in a Narconon facility that received $16,000 from their parents. There’s another $16,000 due tomorrow and I they’re not wealthy people. I’m a concerned relative and don’t know how to advise them. This website certainly shows strong reasons not to continue with their current plan of action but these are desperate parents with a child that has a seriously life threatening addiction. What are they to do?

    • Ann From the Desk of...

      I’m sorry there are no easy answers, Elaine. In a situation like you describe, it’s extremely important to have a place for the person to go once and if they are removed from Narconon. Refunds are usually difficult to obtain once the program has been started, unless there is some type of leverage you can use.

      If the person has any medical conditions in addition to addiction, especially if they’re on medication for them, it would be best to get them out as soon as possible. We have multiple reports of people not being given their medication and having adverse physical reactions to that, or to the sauna and/or the large doses of vitamins.

      I think the best course of action for you is to show the parents what you’ve found, and let them decide whether to continue with their plan or not. Help them to understand that the Narconon program does not address addiction in a way that addiction professionals recommend. Encourage them to hold off on the additional payment, until they have made a decision.

      At best, it might just be a waste of money, or at worst, it could be a disaster. Then there are also some rare people who do say that the program helped them. My opinion is that the people that have said it helped them could have been helped by any program, because it was their own desire to quit that made the difference.

      Without more information on the specifics, it’s difficult for me to advise you. You can use the Contact Us form if you’d like to send more specific information privately. In the end, though, it’s a decision the parents will have to make. I’m sorry for what they have already gone through, and that now, there’s this.

    • From the Desk of...
      Karen C

      Hi…I too have a child at narconon. I knew NOTHING about it and sent my daughter out of desperation as we have done MANY rehabs in the past. I visited in june 2014 and am going again next week. I wasn’t overly impressed with the organizational skills or lack there of ghe placed possessed. They seem to be in financially sstressed to say the least. The staff was extremely nice and seemed dedicated. Since my daughter has been there ( which is 4 months) , I’ve done alot of research……all results were negative. What I can tell you is my daughter is drug free at the moment and is happy for the first time in a long time. I paid 15, ooo up front and that was all I had to pay. They seem to negotiate a rate your comfortable with. I’m not rich….but I figured it would be just as much as college and I didn’t see that happening. Anyway….good bad or indifferent…she’s alive today….and today is all I have.

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