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Narconon's success rates

Independent studies of Narconon's therapeutic programmes are few in number. Narconon says in its literature that there have been three studies done of the effectiveness of their programme:

A. An independent 1981 Swedish study of 13 Narconon graduates, that showed that 76% of those that completed the Narconon Program were still drug free two years later.

B. An independent Spanish study of 50 Narconon graduates was conducted in Mar/Apr 1987 by "Tecnicos Asociados de Investigacion y Marketing" (TAIM) for the Ministry of Health and Social Services and showed that 70% of the graduates were drug-free two years later. It was headed by Dr. Esquerdo (105); TAIM, PDAL, 28007, Madrid, Spain. TAIM's telephone number is, according to John Duff of Narconon International, +34 1 273-7400.

C. An evaluation of a ten-month Narconon project established at the Youth Training School in Ontario showed that disciplinary offenses among the control group increased 10 percent during the second five-month period, while those of the Narconon group decreased by 81 percent. The grade average of the control group increased from C to C+, while that of the Narconon group increased from C to B.

According to John Duff, the first two studies were commisioned by Narconon, so it seems to be slightly dishonest to claim that they are the product of "independent" research. It should also be noted that TAIM, the research organisation mentioned in the second study, is not at the address given, and not listed in any current Spanish phone directories or commercial directories. The phone number given by John Duff seems also to be out of use, so TAIM has either ceased trading or moved from the Madrid area.

The name of the organization responsible for the Swedish study is not known. Another curious thing about the Swedish statistics is that with 13 subjects there is no way you can get "76%" (76.9% would be the correct figure).

The existence of the latter study has not been yet corroborated independently, but it seems odd that a program primarily intended to eliminate drug use should instead be evaluated on its education and disciplinary benefits.

Nothing is said about the source, duration or methodology used for any of the studies.

A "Swedish" and "Spanish" study is also quoted in the section on Narconon in the book "What is Scientology", giving amazingly accurate statistics for the programs effectiveness (84.6% and 78.37% and respectively). It is not clear whether this reference is to the same or to different studies. Scientology spokesman Andrew Milne (formerly at claims that these are the one-year statistics. Strangely, Narconon does not appear to have supplied Prof. Folke Sjoqvist with a copy of the supposed Swedish study when in November 1997 he wrote a report on Narconon for the Swedish National Board of Health and Welfare.

Given the claims of studies showing high success rates, it is strange that when Narconon sought tax rebates in Stuttgart, Germany, they were unable to provide any evidence to support their claims of efficacy. The Stuttgart Verwaltungsgerichtshof (administrative appeals court) found that

"The papers filed by the petitioner offer no evidence of a successful drug withdrawal at the petitioner."

[Decision of the VGH Stuttgart, 10 May 1993, Az: 1 S 3021/92]

The 1974 report for the California State Department of Health has a substantial amount to say about Narconon's claimed success rates:

"a. Public Descriptions by Pamphlets, Notices, etc.: The 86% "cure rate" is totally unfounded. Narconon publishes a voluminous amount of paper for the purpose of public relations. The main Narconon rehabilitation program bulletin states that a high percentage of clients, approximately 75%, are rehabilitated within 3 months. The pamphlet further states that one supervisor can supervise 42 people a day in three 3-hour periods. Furthermore, one supervisor can train 14 new supervisors in three months.

b. Misleading Claims: Narconon claims to have an 86% cure rate for narcotics addicts which is simply not true. Mr. Greg Zerovnik, National Director - Narconon U.S., explained that the 86% figure came from a study of parolees from the Arizona State Prison who may or may not have been narcotics addicts. This sort of claim is, of course, misleading to both the prospective client and to public officials who are sincerely attempting to find ways to cope with the problem of drug abuse.

Narconon also advertises detoxification with mega-vitamins and other non-medical procedures that may be hazardous and in some cases lethal. Attachment 19 is a Narconon letter to the East Valley Free Clinic advertising an extraordinarily expensive detoxification procedure. It furthermore claims a 68% two year "success rate" for drug abstinence and for arrests "for anything related to drugs." It implies that these success ratios are applicable to heroin addicts and alcoholics. This claim is either misleading or miraculous. Without supporting data the evaluation team cannot but presume this document, however enticing, is a misleading claim.

Narconon implies that it can raise I.Q.'s and generally increase communication skills for their clients. There is no scientific evidence that these alleged changes cause a cure in approximately 50% of cases seen as stated by Mark Jones [then Executive Director of Narconon - see "Is Narconon controlled by Scientology?"] in a Los Angeles Times article. "

[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.]

As well as actual therapy, Narconon also offers lectures on drug abuse to students. According to Narconon's website,

"ten thousand lectures on drug abuse [have been delivered] to approximately three-quarters of a million students in the 1980s and early 1990s... A 1989 study by the Foundation for Advancements in Science and Education measured the attitude change of students from the second grade to twelfth grade in high school and concluded:

"Narconon’s drug education program is effective in teaching students about the adverse consequences of drug abuse and has a very positive influence on the attitudes of students toward drugs. The most dramatic effect on attitude [was] observed in the borderline group of students-those indicating that they might use drugs in the future.’’

Of the students in this category, 86 percent indicated that they were less likely to use drugs following the presentation."

["NARCONON: Effective Drug Education Lectures",]

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Last updated 31 August 1998
by Chris Owen (