Serious doubts have been
raised over the safety of Narconon treatment and in
particular the "New Life Detoxification Program"
(the "Purification Rundown" in its original
Church of Scientology version). The Oklahoma Board of
Mental Health was in no doubt as to the safety of the
therapy offered by the Narconon facility at Chilocco and
made numerous findings of fact on the subject:
concludes there is substantial credible evidence, as
found by the Board, that the Narconon Program is
unsafe and ineffective ...
The Narconon program includes the
administration of high doses of vitamins and minerals
to the Narconon patient as part of their treatment.
The use of high amounts of vitamins and minerals in
the amounts described administered by Narconon can be
potentially dangerous to the patients of Narconon
according to the more credible medical evidence ...
The Narconon program presents a
potential risk to the patients of the Narconon
program that delayed withdrawal phenomena such as
seizures, delirium or hallucination that are
occasionally seen several days after cessation of
drugs such as benzodiazepines, may be misinterpreted
by Narconon's non-medical staff as the effect of
mobilizing the drug from fat during the sauna
sweat-out procedure period. There is also a potential
risk that the reported re-experience of the abused
drugs' effect during the sauna sweat-out program may
be the result of misinterpreted symptoms of
hyperthermia or electrolyte imbalance since vital
signs and serum electrolyte levels have not been
consistently monitored during the sweat-out
procedures or when a student is reporting the
There is credible evidence by way
of witness testimony and review of Narconon charts
which reflect that there were patients who had
psychiatric problems who were taken off of their
previously prescribed psychiatric medication who did
not do well and subsequently developed psychiatric
problems. This evidence indicates a lack of safety
and effectiveness in connection with the program.
Clients of Narconon suffering from
psychiatric illness, when taken off their prescribed
medications, did poorly in the Narconon program and
were placed in a segregated facility called destem.
This practice endangers the safety, health and/or the
physical and mental well being of Narconon's clients.
Narconon's program lacks any
acceptable degree of quality control of the sauna
temperatures and treatment. Such a lack of control
endangers the safety, health and/or the physical or
mental well being of its clients ...
During an on-site visit in November
1991 a student was found with a potentially dangerous
low level of potassium which could lead to cramps,
(muscular, skeletal problems) and cardiac arrhythmia
Part of the Narconon treatment
program involves touch assists between patients.
Touch assists involve massages between patients in
rooms by themselves. Narconon has both male and
female patients who are involved in the drug and
alcohol rehabilitation program. This practice of
touch assists could likely lead to improper sexual
contact between drug addicts or alcoholics in the
process of recovery. An accepted standard in such
programs is for the patients to keep their hands to
themselves. The practice of touch assists between
male and female patients who are recovering drug
addicts or alcoholics in private rooms renders the
program unsafe in this respect ...
Narconon restricts access by
Narconon clients to their personal physicians,
family, attorneys, clergy and others by not
permitting communications except at limited and
designated hours. Such a practice may endanger the
physical or mental well being of Narconon's clients.
The Narconon program fails to
provide adequate follow-up and treatment for Narconon
clients demonstrating abnormal lab tests and other
Such failures endanger the safety,
health and/or the physical or mental well being of
the Narconon clients and is not in accord with
acceptable drug and alcohol care and treatment.
There was no evidence that the
Narconon staff inventoried and verified the
medications brought on to the campus by Narconon
clients. Such a failure endangers the safety, health
and/or the physical or mental well being of
Narconon's clients ...
Narconon clients are routinely
administered clonidine. Narconon fails to provide
adequate supervision for clients prescribed this
medication given this drug's risks and potential for
adverse consequences. Such failure to adequately
supervise endangers the safety, health and/or the
physical or mental well being of the Narconon clients
Large doses of niacin are
administered to patients during the Narconon program
to rid the body of radiation. There is no credible
scientific evidence that niacin in any way gets
radiation out of the patient's body. Rather, the more
credible medical evidence supports the existence of
potential medical risks to persons receiving high
doses of niacin ...
No scientifically well-controlled
studies were found that documented the safety of the
Narconon program. There are potential dangers from
the use of non-medical staff who may be unable to
interpret the possibility of seizures, delirious,
cardiac arrythmia, or hallucinations that are
phenomena associated with the cessation of drugs.
There is also a potential risk of the reported
reexperience of the abused drug effect during the
sauna sweat out program may be the result of
misinterpreted symptoms of hyperthermia or
electrolyte imbalance. Moreover, the multiple
findings of fact heretofore entered by the Board
establish that Narconon's program is not safe ...
The Board concludes that the
program offered by Narconon-Chilocco is not medically
(Findings of Fact regarding the
Narconon-Chilocco Application For Certification
by the Board of Mental Health, State of Oklahoma, 13
Some of the points made by the Board were amplified in
correspondence between Robert W. Lobsinger, editor of The
Newkirk Herald Journal, and medical authorities. The
use of massive doses of niacin and other vitamins
(so-called "vitamin bombs" or
"megavitamins") attracted particular comment:
"Excesses of Vitamin A can
cause brain swelling (pseudotumor cerebri) with
transient losses of vision. Niacin does increase
vascular circulation but in the acid form, it has
been linked to high bilirubin (jaundice) and liver
damage. It has been linked to psychiatry in that it
cured pellegra psychoses, a niacin deficiency.
However illness may be based on both excesses and
deficiencies. A person can die of dehydration (lack
of water) or can drown (an excess of water). The
appropriate USC of niacin is in deficiency states.
Excessive use can be toxic to the liver. The American
Academy of Pediatrics has issued a series of position
statements over the past decade speaking against the
use of megavitamin and trace element therapies for
various childhood behavioral and mental aspects, with
strong emphasis on adversive reactions to excesses.
These statements would apply to Hubbard's claims. The
Niacin theory is just that, a theory, without any
basis for the concept of "turning on and turning
Excesses of various minerals can
cause GI problems and, of more concern can cause
kidney problems including kidney stones."
(William B. Svoboda,
pediatric neurologist, Wichita, Kansas - letter to
R.W. Lobsinger, 30 April 1990)
or "detoxification" program is claimed to
help "clear" the mind of toxins such as
drugs, pesticides and chemical pollutants. It
consists of large doses of niacin, vegetable oil,
exercise and "low temperature" saunas.
According to the followers of L. Ron Hubbard, the
large doses of niacin works by stimulating the
release of fat into the blood stream and this is
accompanied by various "toxins" trapped in
the body's fatty tissues. According to science, large
doses of niacin actually block the release of fat
from fat cells. This has been observed both at rest
[Acta Medica Scandinavia 1962, 172(suppl):641] and
during exercise [D. Jenkins, Lancet 1965,1307]. In
other words, the scientific evidence shows that the
exact opposite of what Hubbard's theory predicts.
There is no credible support for claims that large
doses of niacin clear toxins from the brain, fatty
tissue or any other part of the body.
To make matters worse, large doses
of niacin are hepatotoxic and can cause serious liver
damage. It may also trigger gout, raise blood sugar
into the diabetic range, cause itching, flushing and
a rash. Nausea and gastritis are other side effects
of large doses of niacin. To subject people to these
potentially serious side effects on the pretense that
they are being "detoxified",
"cleared" or "purified" is
(James J. Kenney, Ph.D.,
R.D., National Council Against Health Fraud, Santa
Monica, CA - letter to Dr. John Chelf, copied to
R.W. Lobsinger, 5 January 1991)
"In addition there are aspects
of the program which I find medically unsafe.
Specifically running in a vinyl sweat suit followed
by a Sauna from 140 to 180º from four to five hours
a day certainly is going to cause dehydration and
possibly heat injury in some patients. The author
even notes this on page 168 when he discusses sodium
chloride and potassium replacement, stating "it
is not mandatory for every individual on the program,
it is only necessary as a treatment if the symptom of
salt depletion, heat exhaustion occur". This
suggests that the author expects that in many cases
heat exhaustion will occur. Any treatment which leads
to heat exhaustion is unsound and unsafe.
The author further states
"before beginning the Purification Program a
person must first get a written medical officer
OK". It seems quite apparent that medical
officer does not equate with medical doctor or
physician as the author on page 177 goes on to say
"the medical officer gives a person an OK to go
on to the program after insuring the person's blood
pressure is normal and he is not anemic. The medical
officer does these checks himself where he is trained
to do so". Therefore, it seems medically
unqualified persons are going to be supervising this
program which I think is quite dangerous."
(C. Mark Palmer, M.D.,
Ponca City, Oklahoma - letter to
R.W. Lobsinger, 14 August 1989)
The 1974 report to the California State
Department of Health specifically emphasized this latter
point, which appears also to have been behind the June
of the Russian Ministry of Public Health and Medical
Industry to ban the
purification/detoxification process outright:
should be stopped on the premises since their
procedures are without proper medical supervision and
may be dangerous."
for recovery, House Evaluation ("Tennant Report") - by
Forrest S. Tennant, Jr., M.D., Dr.P.H., Jane Thomas,
R.N., Mike Reilly, and Joseph Shannon, M.D., M.P.H.
Submitted to Don Z. Miller, Deputy Director, Health
Treatment System, State Department of Health,
Sacramento, CA, on 31 Oct 1974.]
It should be noted, though, that to the
best of the author's knowledge no deaths or serious
injuries resulting directly from the
purification/detoxification process have been reported.
This is hard to reconcile with the warnings quoted above.
As thousands, probably tens of thousands, have undergone
purification treatment over the past 30 years, this
suggests one of three scenarios: that Narconon has been
remarkably lucky, that Narconon is very good at covering
up its failures or that Narconon's regime simply is not
as risky as some have suggested.