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The Narconon


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What is the Narconon
therapy programme?

The Narconon programme consists of nine separate elements conducted over 12 weeks, for a fee which stood at $15,000 in 1992 (i.e. $178.57 per day). A curious aspect of the programme is that it is claimed to be "a totally drug-free, highly effective program to rehabilitate drug and alcohol abusers..." and the total absence of drugs in the programme is repeatedly touted as one of its main features ("Narconon Drug Rehabilitation and Education Services", pamphlet, pub. 1989). However, according to a testimonial given by Narconon's medical director, Dr. Ray Stowers, in an hearing in Oklahoma City on Oct. 24 1991, staff at the Narconon Chilocco New Life Center prescribe Valium and sedatives to patients going through difficult withdrawals. Dr. Stowers also admitted that he occasionally had prescribed Valium and sedatives by phone to such patients. Handing out prescriptions of controlled and highly addictive substances such as Valium over the phone is usually not viewed as responsible medical practice, and was specifically criticised by the Board of Mental Health of the State of Oklahoma in its 1991 report on Narconon:

"Narconon fails to provide adequate supervision for clients prescribed [clonidine] 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."

(Findings of Fact regarding the Narconon-Chilocco Application For Certification by the Board of Mental Health, State of Oklahoma, 13 December 1991)

Another pamphlet - this one produced by the Narconon facility at Chilocco, Oklahoma in 1992 - gives the following details of the nine steps which comprise the programme:

"1. DRUG WITHDRAWAL: In this first part of the program a person gets a complete physical by our Medical Director, who is on call 24 hours a day. A withdrawal program is then written up according to the individual needs of that person. The program will assist the individual to stop current drug use with minimal discomfort through proper nutrition, vitamins and care from experienced Narconon staff and a qualified nurse who is available 24 hours a day.

2. THE THERAPEUTIC TR COURSE: This course extroverts the individual and gets him/her into better communication with others and with the environment around him/her. This is accomplished through a series of simple Training Routines (TRs). Each TR is a specific drill (exercise) on one part of communication. Together, the TRs show how to get oneself understood and how to communicate better with others."

This course, the Narconon Communication Course, was described in a report commissioned by the California State Department of Health (the "Tennant Report") as follows:

"[The course] involves a rigid series of training routines termed TR's subnumbered 0-9. Each TR is an individually prescribed entity which must be mastered before proceeding on an upward "gradient" to the next TR. TR0 involves three exercises specified as "eyes closed," "eyes opened," and "bullbaiting." The premise seems to involve the exercise of trust in "eyes closed," the exercise of direct eye contact tolerance (staring into the coach's eyes) in "eyes open," and the seeking of an emotional weak spot or "button" and a corresponding emotional response to it in the bullbaiting routine. The bullbaiting exercise seems to involve principally physical characteristics that may be used to embarrass or humiliate an individual and condition him to accept and control is responses to these verbal threats to his body image. For example, one might poke fun at a poor complexion, a crooked nose, and etc. Bullbaiting appears to be a crude forerunner of the more polished auditing procedure and is accomplished without the use of the so-called E-meter. Additionally it appears to be the primary part of TR0 or the initial exercise routine.

TR1 through 9 involves mastering written course materials obviously adapted from L. Ron Hubbard's works and incorporated into the Narconon Communication Course. They primarily involve the "proper" understanding of key words and phrases that must be looked up in the Narconon dictionary and then demonstrated in each exercise routine. TR1 teaches students to "clearly communicate"; TR2 -- how to "acknowledge" properly; TR3 -- how to get an answer to a question without "variation"' and TR4 -- how to handle "origenation" -- to accept a pain or discomfort and find out where it originated.

The first five TR's (0-4) must be mastered in their entirety three times before proceeding to TR6. (We were informed that no TR5 existed [see note below]. ) TR6 involves "good and effective control over an individual or group"' TR7 -- the same as TR6 but on a higher "gradient" which presumably means physical control over a threatening or disturbed individual. TR8 involves "intention without reservation" - to totally clarify ones intentions (which may be nonverbal). TR9 is a culmination of previous TR's and stresses particularly the thorough mastery of four conceptions, i.e. "exact intention," "exact strength needed," "exact force necessary," and "exact intention without reservation or limit."

The student now goes backwards through this routine and if successful is given a certificate of completion for the basic Narconon Communication Course. Upon completion of the basic Communication Course the student is apparently free to choose any number of more "advanced" course study programs, most of which appear to be stepping stones towards the attainment of HQS (Hubbard Qualified Scientologist) status. We were told that approximately 90 percent of the students go on into the various courses available. A Mr. John Powers, who stated he is the new staff auditor for Narconon New Life, states that he hoped all graduates of the basic Narconon Communications Course would take courses leading to HQS."

[Outline 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.]

(In fact, TR5 does exist. The "Technical Dictionary of Dianetics & Scientology" (Bridge Publications Inc., 1974) defines it as "a drill called "Hand Mimicry," a drill to educate students that verbal commands are not entirely necessary ... "You make that body sit in that chair." "Thank you." ")

A detailed comparison of Narconon's Communication Course and that run by the Church of Scientology reveals that the two are, in fact, virtually identical; see "Narconon and Scientology: a comparison".

"3. THE NARCONON NEW LIFE DETOXIFICATION PROCEDURE: This is the part of the program where drug residues and other toxic substances are removed from the body. These residues are locked in the fatty tissues of the body and can be released into the blood stream years after the individual stops taking drugs. These residues can cause the cravings for drugs and are one of the main reasons that an individual returns to taking drugs. The Narconon program removes these residues through an exact regimen of exercise, sauna and nutritional supplements."

This is undoubtedly the most contentious aspect of Narconon's programme. It has been banned outright in the Russian Federation under order #254 of the Ministry of Public Health and Medical Industry, issued 19 June 1996. Its scientific validity is highly questionable; see "What medical recognition has been gained by Narconon?"

"4. THE LEARNING IMPROVEMENT COURSE: This course gives the individual the ability to recognize and overcome the three main barriers to study and learning. The individual also learns how to fully use a dictionary, how to do demonstrations of concepts so he/she can easily understand them and how to spot and handle any difficulties in his/her studies."

Like the Communication Course, this is a direct adaptation of Scientology course materials - in this case the "Study Technology" originally devised by L. Ron Hubbard to train Scientologists. The course chiefly involves learning "how to fully use a dictionary", reflecting Hubbard's belief that people feel "bent, dizzy, sort of dead" if they do not fully understand every possible meaning of a word. In practice, this can involve writing out definitions for every word in a sentence, including "and", "it", "the", and so on. This may well be useful for grammarians but it is difficult to see the relevance to drug rehabilitation.

"5. THE COMMUNICATIONS AND PERCEPTION COURSE: In this course the individual does a series of exercises designed to fully extrovert his/her attention and focus it on the environment. This greatly raises his/her perception and the ability to handle the environment and control his/her life. The individual also helps another person through the same exercises, which increases his/her responsibility and ability to handle life and help others.

6. THE UPS AND DOWNS IN LIFE COURSE: This course gives the individual the ability to spot and handle those influences in the environment that could cause the individual to revert back to drug use. The individual learns the characteristics of the social and anti-social personalities so that he/she can spot the differences and better choose his/her friends and associates."

The Ups and Downs in Life Course incorporates a key element of the Church of Scientology's worldview, namely its identification of people as "social" and "anti-social" - the latter more usually being referred to as "Suppressive Persons" or "SPs". Activities which are defined as "suppressive" include such things as publicly criticising Scientology or Scientologists; "delivering up the person of a Scientologist without defense or protest to the demands of civil or criminal law"; "continued adherence to a person or group pronounced a Suppressive Person or Group by HCO [Hubbard Communications Office]", and so on. Anyone guilty of such "crimes" is held to be acting deliberately to "suppress Mankind"; therefore, according to L. Ron Hubbard, "they cannot be granted the rights and beingness ordinarily accorded rational beings." (Reference: Introduction to Scientology Ethics, L. Ron Hubbard, 1967).

The Tennant Report notes that Narconon staff are subject to typical Scientology discipline. It states:

"The various offenses that staff may be disciplined for are characterized as high crimes, felonies, misdemeanors or errors. One section of the "Organization Executive Course" specifies that staff "convicted" of "high crimes" in addition to having all training certificates revoked and being banned from the organization, will further be labeled as "fair game." A later directive from Hubbard instructs that the term "fair game" not be used any longer as it is potentially harmful for public relations.

The evaluation team was unable to ascertain to what extent these staff disciplinary practices are actually utilized within the program. One staff member interviewed indicated that one of his responsibilities was staff auditor, which within the organization means that he would administer E-meter or "truth detector" tests to other staff members. The circumstances under which these tests would take place was not explained."

(Tennant Report, 1974)

"7. THE PERSONAL VALUES AND INTEGRITY COURSE: This course gives the individual information that will improve survival potential; it teaches the individual what is needed to survive. It also gives the individual knowledge about personal ethics, honesty and integrity and shows him/her how to correct counter-survival behavior."

The Church of Scientology has an extremely rigid internal disciplinary structure, called "Scientology Ethics" (or just "Ethics") which is intended to "correct counter-survival behaviour" amongst its members. Such behaviour includes, amongst many other things, debate and dissent about Scientology or its leaders; the organisation is emphatically not run on democratic lines (indeed, its "scriptures" written by Hubbard specifically denounce democratic systems). Given the very strong similarity between Narconon and Scientology doctrine, it is no surprise to see that "ethics" appear in Narconon as well. As already mentioned, staff are reported to be subject to Scientology-style discipline. The authors of the Tennant Report observed the use of similar disciplinary practices amongst the Narconon students but were unable to unearth much information about it:

"Our interviewed data indicated that the Narconon disciplinary approach was based on the "Student's Guide to Ethical Behavior." We were not able to get a copy of the latter document. We were told that infractions were "routed" to the "Ethics Officer" who taught the infractors where they went wrong. We were unable to obtain any precise information as to what infractions were other than the drinking of alcohol 24 hours prior to a course. All medication use or abuse is considered deviant or aberrant behavior but the rules or regulations determining policy actions were simply unstated. One of the "supervisors" interviewed stated that a student using Dilantin, phenobarbital, and Tedral was expelled from Narconon New Life Halfway House. Presumably the latter individual was epileptic and asthmatic and his medication use precluded participation in the Narconon rehabilitation program."

(Tennant Report, 1974)

The "Student's Guide to Ethical Behavior" appears to be very similar to the "Preclear's Code" in Scientology, being a statement of the rights and obligations of the member. A similar code of conduct applies to their "supervisors".

"8. THE CHANGING CONDITIONS IN LIFE COURSE: This gives the individual the exact step-by-step technology he/she needs to improve his/her life. This technology covers how to apply exact steps to improve conditions in life. It also teaches how to apply this technology to repair previous bad conditions in one's life.

9. THE WAY TO HAPPINESS COURSE: This course teaches the individual a moral code, which is a guide to living a happier life based on the book "The Way to Happiness," written by L. Ron Hubbard."

The inclusion of the Way to Happiness Course is interesting, as internal Scientology documents explicitly state that the book "The Way to Happiness" is "the largest dissemination project in Scientology history." This connection perhaps goes some way to explaining why, having reached this ninth step, an internal Narconon flowchart (dated 1984) states that the next and final step is "ROUTE TO NEAREST [SCIENTOLOGY] ORG[ANIZATION] FOR FURTHER SERVICES IF INDIVIDUAL SO DESIRES."

This lends some credence to the frequent claim by critics of Scientology that Narconon clients are expressly directed into Scientology (this, they suggest, being the primary goal of the Narconon programme). Some have suggested that as many as 50-75 percent of those who undergo full Narconon training become Scientologists. The 1974 Tennant Report states of the patients interviewed at Narconon New Life in Los Angeles that "most ... wanted to become qualified scientologists." Heber Jentzsch, President of the Church of Scientology International, told the Boston Herald (3 March 1998) that only about 6 percent actually do become members of Scientology. However, the Church's tendency to use statistics creatively means that this figure has to be treated with some caution.


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Last updated 31 August 1998
by Chris Owen (