For those who deal with drug misuse, checking into a rehab facility is often the best course of action. Here, they can be weaned off of the substance safely and effectively while being looked after by professional personnel, all of whom are properly trained for the job. Families who have a loved one in rehab have a lot at stake, too — they put their trust into the facility to provide what the patient needs.
But what happens when some rehab centers could potentially harm the patient even further? You’ve heard of Scientology — the religion Tom Cruise has so famously touted and Leah Remini has also sought to expose. You might not have realized, however, that the religion has its own rehab place known as Narconon.
According to the Scientology website, Narconon uses a drug-free process to detox the patient of any “drug residues” and to help them heal both their mind and body. It sounds legit, but certain individuals who have attended this facility came away with some pretty shocking stories of their procedures — many of which sound downright dangerous.
First, what’s Scientology?
Before we delve into Narconon, it’s important to note what exactly Scientologists believe. The Telegraph reports this religion was founded by L. Ron Hubbard, a science fiction writer who created the first church in 1954. He based the religion off of the idea that people are immortal spiritual beings — in fact, you’re supposed to sign a 1 billion year pledge to symbolize your eternal dedication. And you thought marriage was a serious commitment.
Scientologists have one common goal in mind — to know themselves, and other human beings, completely. They believe through their practice, they’ll one day be able to free themselves of their human form and become their true higher, spiritual selves. That sounds nice, but here’s the catch: They don’t believe in medications, they sort of believe in aliens, and they’ve been caught in a whirlwind of controversy over the years, including allegations of human trafficking and forcing people to stay with the church — even when they want to leave.
If Scientology sounds a little strange, you can only imagine what the rehab facility would be like. Here’s what you should know.
1. None of the rehab staff have any medical experience
This should be a major red flag to all who choose to go through Narconon’s addiction program. Unfortunately, it’s unlikely they’ll tell you anything about their personnel. According to SFGate, Narconon’s anti-drug agenda has toured around public schools, where they’ve spread false information about drugs residing in body fat. Even though scientists have called them out on spreading their bluffs, unknowing participants of their rehab center might believe the lies.
One patient of Narconon, Jeffrey, explains to Cracked what he observed while in a rehab program at the facility. The medical staff didn’t understand how detoxing worked. And because medication is strictly forbidden, this can make detoxing very dangerous for some. Jeffrey was given a drink containing vinegar, calcium, and magnesium to help him through the detox process — and you can imagine how well that worked.
2. If you go through the program, you might never leave
Not only does the staff not know how to administer proper medical care, but most of them were actually patients themselves. Jeffrey from the Cracked article says once you graduate from the program, you’re eligible to work there as an employee. This also means many of the specialists at Narconon have been clean for under a year.
This opportunity may entice many drug misusers, as it gives them an immediate job. But there are a lot of rules when it comes to working at Narconon — you must commit to Scientology and live on site, and you’re not getting paid above minimum wage. And as one previous patient notes in xoJane, the workers often relapse and have to go through the program again.
3. They make you do really bizarre rehabilitation exercises
The detox process in Narconon sounds horrifying, but the bizarre rehab methods don’t stop there. The previous patient who wrote the xoJane story says one of her rehab exercises involved picking random lines out of Alice in Wonderland to repeat back to a faculty member in a flat tone. The patient also notes some of the activities involved staring at someone for hours while staying completely still.
And it’s not easy to pass these rehab tests. The writer for xoJane notes the lack of training and low wages may make the staff act power-hungry, thus failing patients unnecessarily. Even just shifting positions during the hour-long stare down was enough to fail.
4. They force you to take vitamins and spend a lot of time in saunas
Scientologists don’t believe in medications, but they sure believe in vitamins — lots of them. According to The Fix, part of Hubbard’s rehab process is to have patients ingest megadoses of vitamins for detoxification. On top of that, they also recommend spending four to five hours in a sauna.
Jeffrey from the Cracked article states part of his detoxification program for heroin was taking up to 5,000 milligrams of niacin daily, followed by a 20-minute jog, then five hours in the sauna.
First of all, no one should be spending more than 15 to 20 minutes in that amount of heat at a time. And having too much niacin can be lethal. David Love, a client at one of the Narconon locations, told The Fix patients regularly vomited, had diarrhea, and were taken away in ambulances thanks to the high doses of niacin.
5. People have died under Narconon’s care
You’ve probably been wondering about this, so yes — people have died while in the care of Narconon. Back in 2012, The Tampa Bay Times reported four deaths occurred at a Narconon facility in Oklahoma. And The Fix notes dozens of cases have been filed against the rehab centers by former patients and even relatives who have had family members die.
Though the causes of death were unclear, many health professionals have noted the potential dangers of the treatment plan. The University of Maryland Medical Center notes high doses of niacin can cause liver damage and stomach ulcers. For those who already have damaged livers from alcohol misuse, this can potentially lead the organ to fail.
6. Some facilities have been shut down
All of the foul play that’s been reported by patients and their families has not gone unnoticed. In fact, many Narconon facilities have been shut down. Following the death of patient Patrick Desmond, the facility in Georgia was forcibly closed, WSB-TV reports. And CBC News in Canada reported the Montreal Narconon facility was shut down in 2012 after four individuals were taken to the hospital.
There are still several in operation, however — the Tampa Bay Times says Florida has a couple facilities, one of which had received high performance ratings upon inspection in 2010. And the Oklahoma facility is also still going. Aside from the U.S. and Canada, you can also find Narconon facilities in other countries. Though with continuing backlash, medical concerns, and patients reaching out to the media, it’ll be interesting to see just how many of these facilities remain open in the future.