Apologetics Index

Narconon, Scientology’s drug ‘rehab’ approach

Narconon at a Glance

  • What: Narconon is a Scientology front group that claims to treat substance abusers.
  • Location: Headquarters: Los Angeles (Hollywood), California. Other locations outside the USA primarily in Western Europe
  • Founded: Narconon was the name of a drug-rehabilitation program established by William C. Benitez, a former inmate at Arizona State Prison, on February 19, 1966. Benitez based the program on the book “The Fundamentals of Thought” by Scientology-founder L. Ron Hubbard. In 1972 Hubbard sponsored the incorporation of Narconon as an organization. It was co-founded by Benitez and two Scientologists. [1]
  • Controversy: Narconon is controversial for several reasons, including that

    a) it is based on the writing of L. Ron Hubbard, considered a liar and a quack;

    b) its materials lack quality and trustworthiness;

    c) there exist no independently recognized studies which confirm the efficacy of the rehab program, and

    d) it is linked to the Church of Scientology in such a way that it considered one of the cult’s front groups. (TIME magazine has referred to Narconon as “a classic vehicle for drawing addicts into the cult.” [2])

Our View

The publishers of Apologetics Index consider the Church of Scientology (including its related entities) to be a commercial enterprise that masquerades as a religion. In our view Scientology preys on vulnerable people through a variety of front groups, including Narconon (which operates in some prisons under the name “Criminon”).

In our opinion Scientology’s medical teachings — based as they are on the writings of founder L. Ron Hubbard — amount to a mixture of fantasy, lies and quackery. [4]

Wikipedia puts it this way:

[Narconon’s] drug rehabilitation treatment has been described as “medically unsafe”, “quackery” and “medical fraud”, while academic and medical experts have dismissed its educational programme as containing “factual errors in basic concepts such as physical and mental effects, addiction and even spelling.” [3]

We encourage those who are addicted to narcotics or other substances to not get involved with Scientology or its front group, but to instead contact legitimate organizations, such as Narcotics Anonymous

The Scientology-front frequently features in investigative TV reports such as this one by CBS-KLVS News ( Oct. 31, 2012)
NBC, Rock Center report on Scientology’s ‘rehab’ program(Aug. 16, 2012)
NBC, Rock Center with Harry Smith (Apr. 5, 2013). Part of a series of Rock Center reports on Narconon

How the Church of Scientology describes Narconon

The United States Internal Revenue Service, as a condition of its 1 October 1993 tax-exemption agreement with the Church of Scientology, sent to foreign governments an official “Description of the Scientology Religion” produced by the Church of Scientology International. It gives the following concise description:

Scientology Church description of Narconon


  • Inside Narconon’s Bizarre Treatments Catherine Solyom, The Montreal Gazette, Apr. 20, 2012.

    Perhaps the lowest point in David Love’s “treatment” for drug addiction at Narconon Trois Rivières was the five-hour sauna on his 25th day of five-hour saunas.

    Being forced to yell at an ashtray for hours on end — “Stand up, ashtray!” “Thank you.” “Sit back down, ashtray!” — also left him confused and frustrated. But it was when Love realized that the rehab centre inspired by the teachings of Scientology was actually putting vulnerable addicts’ health at risk — and that he had become a part of the machinery — that he decided to get out.

    On Oct. 28, 2009, six months after he had gone from “graduate” of the Narconon program to “Certified Counsellor,” Love left the facility and began a crusade to have it shut down. In July 2011, following his complaint, the Quebec College of Physicians ordered Dr. Pierre Labonté, Narconon’s “medical manager,” to cut his associations with the centre, located about 125 kilometres northeast of Montreal. The Quebec labour relations tribunal also mediated in Love’s favour when he complained about being paid $2.50 an hour as a staff member.

    Then last Friday, 2½ years after Love began his campaign, public health officials for the Mauricie region ordered Narconon to relocate its 32 residents and told the organization they would not certify the centre, because its approach was not recognized in this province, and that its practices, including the saunas and massive doses of niacin, were potentially putting patients’ health at risk.

    Most of the patients, from B.C. and other provinces as well as the United States, have since been relocated to Narconon centres in the U.S.

    As for David Love, he remains drug-free since he left Narconon — but deeply traumatized by what he saw and went through in Trois Rivières.

    See also:

  • Narconon: Drug reformers or Scientology front? Chris Owen. An indepth look at Narconon. Recommended.
  • Scientology reaches into schools through Narconon, Joseph Mallia, Boston Herald, Mar. 3, 1998.

    Top Scientology officials at the church’s nerve center, the Religious Technology Center, deny any connection to Narconon.

    “The definitive answer is RTC doesn’t have anything to do with them,” RTC President Warren L. McShane said in a letter to the Herald.

    “I’ve checked my files, we have never had a licensing agreement with them or any secular group,” McShane said.

    But the RTC clearly states on all Scientology literature that the Purification Rundown is a registered trademark used only with its permission.

    Also, L. Ron Hubbard’s name is trademarked by the RTC, and all his books are copyrighted by another key Scientology organization called the L. Ron Hubbard Library. Hubbard’s name and his writings may only be used with permission, according to numerous Scientology publications.

    Robert Vaughn Young, a former top Scientology official, said it is common knowledge among top Scientologists that the RTC strictly controls Narconon through licensing agreements.

    Also, church documents say the RTC is “protector of the religion” ensuring “purity of application” of Hubbard’s teachings, with an “Inspector General Network” to enforce RTC rules.

    See Also:

    • Revealed: how Scientologists infiltrated Britain’s schools
    • Schools in California urged to drop antidrug program

      State Superintendent Jack O’Connell urged all California schools on Tuesday to drop the Narconon antidrug education program after a new state evaluation concluded that its curriculum offers inaccurate and unscientific information. […] Scientology correspondence obtained by The Chronicle said Narconon’s instruction is delivered in language purged of most church parlance, but includes “all the Scientology and Dianetics Handbook basics.”

  • Medical claims within Scientology’s secret teachings, Jeff Jacobsen. A well-documented, eye-opening overview of the medical claims made by Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard, whose writings are considered ‘scripture’ by the cult — and are used as the basis for Narconon’s treatment approach.

News & News Archive

See Also


  • Narconon [Pro] Caution! Scientology front group. Link included here for research purposes only. If you have a drug or alcohol problem, contact a legitimate organization instead.
  • Narconon Exposed [Contra] Recommended. Excellent, well-documented site. Sections include, but are not limited to, Does Narconon Work?, Is Narconon Safe?, and Narconon and Scientology The latter item looks at similarities between the ‘rehab’ and Scientology doctrines, links and similarities between the Narconon organisation and the Church of Scientolog, and the manning of Narconon by Scientologists.
  • Narconon Lawsuits “Have you been harmed by Narconon?” Read stories by people who allege that Narconon has harmed them. Operated by Jonathan Little, a lawyer who is currently being threatened for doing so by a Narconon Attorney.
  • NarCONon is Scientology [Contra] Essentially a collection of older news articles, letters and such regarding the Scientology front group.
  • The Narconon Scam [Contra] Jeff Lee’s website includes official reports on Narconon, including the 1974 Report to the California Department of Health and the 1992 Findings of the Oklahoma Board of Mental Health. Also include the Narconon Skeptics FAQ, “based upon my own correspondence with Narconon staff, postings in the Usenet newsgroup “alt.religion.scientology”, and promotional material supplied by Narconon themselves.”
  • Narcotics Anonymous Legitimate organization that has no connection to Scientology’s front group


  1. Wikipedia: Narconon, History [Back]
  2. Richard Behar, TIME magazine, Scientology: The Thriving Cult of Greed and Power. Cover story, May 6, 1991 page 50. Note: the Church of Scientology sued TIME magazine and Richard Behar for libel, but lost. Before that, writer Richard Behar was subjected to the kind of harassment Scientology has become known for. [Back]
  3. Wikipedia entry on the Scientology front group, last accessed Monday, November 12, 2012 – 6:57 AM CET [Back]
  4. See Jeff Jacobson, Medical claims within Scientology’s secret teachings [Back]

Article details

Category: Narconon
Related topic(s):

First published (or major update) on Friday, March 25, 2016.
Last updated on July 07, 2024.

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