NARCONON: Rehab by Artful Deception – Part I

“People see me all the time
And they just can’t remember how to act
Their minds are filled with big ideas
Images and distorted facts”

BOB DYLAN – Idiot Wind

I was desperate, fearful, and worried once again, and losing hope in finding the right treatment for my son in November of 2010. I felt depleted, yet compelled to do something. He was in a lot of legal trouble, after our decision to give him tough love, and if I didn’t find him a rehab, he would be rehabbing in jail for a long time.

Finding good addiction treatment was gut-wrenching, not only because of my torment involved in the awful circumstances, but because of the money I knew it was going to cost me and his father, even though Cody was covered by good health insurance. We believed it was good insurance, but it was never good enough to cover residential addiction treatment.  His insurance would pay for emergency room overdoses, but not preventative treatment, which seemed absurdly illogical to me.

However, it was only the tip of the iceberg of tribulations to come at the rehab I chose for him called Narconon (not to be confused with N.A.), located in Fort Collins, Colorado, which is shockingly still, in business today.

So, what is Narconon to the unsuspecting?

It’s a detox and rehab chain with several dozen clinics around the world, claiming a scientific recovery approach to addiction that surpasses all else.  It boasts a success rate of 70-80%, a natural, holistic drug-free detox program, special educational therapies (in lieu of a 12 Step program) to gain self-control, a sauna and natural vitamin regimen to sweat out the toxic substances and stop the cravings, onsite certified drug counselors, and a classroom for learning better communication techniques.

To these trusting folks, it claims the treatment is covered by health insurance and promises to get it quickly processed. The web is flooded with Narconon ads and toll-free numbers directing the innocent, who have Googled addiction treatment or non-12 Step addiction rehabs, to its call centers, complete with commissioned, charismatic sales people, who are former clients, offering hope and solutions for anguished parents and distressed family members.

So, what is Narconon in the truest sense?

It’s essentially the brainchild of L. Ron Hubbard’s science fiction religion, acting as a front for the Church of Scientology, and in my view, predatory in nature.  It serves as one of the church’s main sources of revenue and recruitment of prime candidates for conversion to Scientology.  Innocent, desperate, and vulnerable parents and family members pay over $30,000 for treatment, without knowing the ties to Scientology, until their addicted loved ones become immersed in the program, and figure it out.

The text books for communication techniques are actually eight Scientology books indoctrinating the addicted “students” into the church’s theories, on the pretense of drug rehabilitation, while denying addiction is a disease at all. It calls its clients “students”, instead of patients or residents, which ought to be an indicator of its primary aim to teach rather than to rehabilitate.

In the initial interview, it claims to have doctors, nurses, withdrawal specialists, and drug counselors on staff, but those claims are deceptive and fraudulent. The former students are employed as pseudo drug counselors and withdrawal specialists at nearly minimum wage or less if they are interns, and the clinics employ no doctors or nurses on staff at all.  No professional medical supervision is provided for the “holistic” drug-free detox nor during the grueling sauna and vitamin practice, which can last up to a month.

Former students I’ve spoken with have witnessed alcohol withdrawal seizures, as well as severe vomiting and diarrhea, primarily because the students are the ones providing the medical supervision.  Narconon employs no certified addiction counselors or professionals of any kind, and there have been at least six deaths reported at its clinics, and several lawsuits filed in regards to those deaths and its other dangerous and bizarre practices.

Also, in the initial interview, promises are made by Narconon with regard to health insurance coverage, but the full “tuition” amount of over $30,000 is asked for up front, while it supposedly works on processing the insurance claim. The claim gets rejected and is dumped back on the family to figure out on their own with the insurance provider, which mostly results in zero reimbursement.

Narconon is a voracious scam and artfully deceptive, and I fell for it hook, line, and sinker.

Why?  Not because I was gullible, naive, or stupid, but because I was desperate, vulnerable and ripe for being preyed upon, and I frankly didn’t know where else to go.  Despite that, my son entered rehab at Narconon in Fort Collins around Thanksgiving in 2010, and stayed there for six months, as a student and an intern the first time, and returned as a student and employee, the second time around.

My story is not finished, but before I share the details of Cody’s experience, I have to mention Narconon was a rather bittersweet place in retrospect; bitter in the sense of the shady practices going on, but sweet in the essence of two remarkable people Cody met there, who both became a very important part of his life later on, and mine, too.  Maybe it served a purpose beyond our knowing at the time.

I am in the process of writing the rest of the story, along with sharing the truth of his experience as I saw it, and how I thought he survived it, only to relapse shortly after he left (both times), in Part 2 of my next blog.

Mary Cucarola – March 2016

Comments 8

  1. I feel you pain!!! My son Toby went through a similar experience, as did his father and I. We paid $35,000 and didn’t find out it was Scientology until we visited Toby one day, and he asked us “who was this L. Ron Hubbard guy they were constantly making them read?” I was shocked! Then I was afraid. Toby was there for around 6 months as a “student”, then an extremely underpaid and VERY overworked intern. He had a relapse within a couple of months, and then went to Nevada for 6 weeks. Neither place prepared him, in any way, shape, or form, to battle his addiction. After many battles with the law, I persuaded him to go to “The Peer”. Thank GOD!!! He has been sober for close to 3 years now, and is doing well. The Peer knows how to help addicts, I have been very happy with how much they have helped Toby, and force all their “clients” to be responsible and successful in their daily battle to stay clean and sober. Narconon steals peoples money, hopes, and ultimately…..too many lives, all for profit and brainwashing.

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    Cody knew Toby before and after Narconon. I met Toby on one of my visits up there, and he has played in Cody’s charity golf tournament, too. Toby is a very nice young man, and I’m so happy for him in his recovery of 3 years. We, as parents, do the best we can with what we know at the time. Dealing with a child’s addiction is a painful thing to go through, and every day is a challenge. Thanks for reading my blog, and acknowledging your difficulty with Narconon, too. Please stay in touch, Vicki.

  3. I went through narconon to and had a terrible expirience I was at the one in Albion Michigan beyond the scam the health code violations in there are insane the place was filthy old run down trauma center with mold showers n black mold all over the building. The sauna program felt like torture drinking thousands of mgs of niacin n sitting in the sauna for 5 hours a day for a month and a half if they need to get shit down its a huge joke and they prey on the suffering of families n addicts.

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    Thanks for sharing your experience at Narconon. The more we talk about the predatory nature of the place, the more people will be informed, and not make the same mistake. Hope you are doing well now, Shane, in your recovery.

  5. Dear, dear Mary,

    Once again a beautiful, touching job of writing your blog. Lives will be saved. Where can you take it from here? This should be covered on TV programs like “60 minutes” or 20/20. I admire you for keep up the fight against addiction. Think of you and Cody daily.

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    Thank you, Jane. I am writing two more parts to my story about Narconon, after speaking with a couple more people who went through the program. I have the second part written, I just need to edit it and get it published. Think of you, too. Hope to get out there this year to see everyone.

  7. Thank you for your story. I started a referral service for people looking for treatment, because when I needed it for my son I had no idea where to look. I frequently have people interested in Narconon, based on the false advertising they see. I do everything I can to steer them away. In the future I will direct them to this website.

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