Does Narconon’s Addiction Rehab Really Work?

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In a field in which the meetings and prayers of 12-step treatment are among the most accepted ways to help people with drug addiction, consumers have little way of knowing which rehabs are genuinely evidence-based and which simply offer faith healing masquerading as medicine.

Consequently, even Scientology-based treatment centers have been used in the criminal justice system and licensed as legitimate rehab in some states. The Narconon detox program, which is based on the beliefs of Church of Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard, has dozens of facilities in the U.S. and abroad. It has managed for years to get its factually inaccurate drug-education program widely adopted in California’s public schools (sample “fact:” During detox, drugs come out of the body in “colored ooze”).

Now, a new publication focusing on addiction, The Fix, takes a scathing look at Narconon and debunks its claims of efficacy. (Full disclosure: I write a column for The Fix.) As Mark Ebner and Walter Armstrong write, it’s hard to validate Narconon’s treatment methods or confirm its claimed success rate; it’s even difficult to determine the number of facilities Narconon runs:

In 1971, a Scientology minister launched the first Narconon center in Los Angeles, an eight-bed outpatient clinic for clients just getting out of the pen…Over the next four decades, the organization grew into one of the best-known and biggest rehab programs in the world, claiming over 100 residential facilities, offices, and information centers across 29 countries. However, most independent reports number Narconon’s actual clinics at no more than several dozen. And according to the website of the Association for Better Living and Education (ABLE)—the nonprofit that runs Narconon International—there are 33 Narconon in-patient centers worldwide, including three in California, one in Nevada and the flagship facility in Oklahoma. The organization can’t even keep its own facts (or fictions) straight.

Bottom line is that solid research evidence does not support the program’s claims. Read the full story here. The Fix’s first issue also features a fascinating article about actor Tom Arnold’s sister, who is apparently a pioneer in methamphetamine dealing.