Healing Through Magic: Scientology's Drug Rehab Program
Whatever you think of the congealed puddle of lawsuits and evil known as Scientology, you've got to admire their ambition: They run churches, schools, and even a space Navy. They haven't even let their extremely limited understanding of drugs and medicine stop them from treating drug addicts! Narconon is a Scientology-run rehab facility that promises to remove that monkey from your back with a combination of vitamins and magic, both of which may kill you. We spoke to one survivor of Narconon, a former heroin addict named Jeffrey, who told us ...
You May Not Realize They're Scientologists Until It's Too Late
"It was a while before I realized Scientology had a role in this place," Jeffrey says. To be fair, some of that is due to a naivete on Jeffrey's part that seems inexcusable in Tom Cruise's America. "I'd heard very little about it besides the South Park episode, which I barely remembered at that point, and that Tom Cruise was a part of it." But even the most discerning rehab-shopper could be forgiven for not realizing what Narconon is. You really have to search to find the word "Scientology" anywhere on their website.
It's almost like they're aware of how evil they are.
You also have to click through a few pages to find the name L. Ron Hubbard, who is described in somewhat less-than-honest terms:
Between "author" and "humanitarian," it's impossible to decide what he's less acclaimed for.
So it's a pretty nasty shock when you show up and there are portraits of the man on every wall. "They don't advertise it as Scientology, and only inkling you'd have is that L. Ron Hubbard is mentioned, but only in that he is a humanitarian," Jeffrey says. The name didn't ring a bell for him, since he was pretty busy doing a bunch of heroin at the time, he says. "It wasn't until another patient said something a few weeks into it I learned a little about whom L. Ron Hubbard was, which made his picture being everywhere make sense."
Well, "making sense" here is a relative term.
He signed off on whatever this is. So "sense" left Teegeeack long ago.
Detox Is Stupid (And Occasionally Lethal) When You Don't Believe In Pharmacology
Jeffrey arrived at the facility, which he describes as "35 miles from the closest gas station." He was immediately brought to a "detox area with no medical staff whatsoever. No contact with the outside world, not allowed to have your belongings until you've finished your detox." It was like a cross between Trainspotting and Taken, which would be undoubtedly awesome to watch but slightly less awesome to live.
"None of this is shady ... except for all the shady-looking stuff."
"I asked about detox meds, because, although not life-threatening like alcohol or benzodiazepine withdrawal, heroin withdrawal does require medicines to get through. I was told no medicine is necessary," Jeffrey says. What he was given instead was calmat, "a mixture of calcium, magnesium, and vinegar that they believe detoxes the body," which is exactly as delicious as it is effective.
"They took me on walks every few hours and did little thought exercises with me, one being, 'Tell me what you see,' tell them everything you see, but they won't let you stop until you say something meaningful, such as, 'I see my whole future ahead of me.' Or, 'I see that everything is beautiful and that I can enjoy things without drugs.'"
"I see myself crossing The Bridge. Or is it The Bridge To The Bridge? Or is it the Bridge To The-"
Apparently, what someone potentially dying of withdrawal really needs is not medicine but mineral potions and Hallmark-caliber personal revelations. Oh, did we mention that people have died there? Because people have totally died there, mostly under "mysterious circumstances." (It's kind of hard to investigate when the people in charge of doing that keep getting suspiciously fired.) While Narconon does advise that severe alcoholics undergo initial detox elsewhere, given that their medical training doesn't include learning how to respond to a fatal epileptic seizure, you might not want to trust them to assess your risk of dying to death.
The Actual Treatment Program Is Insanely Dangerous
"Next is what I believe they called the detoxification purification program," Jeffrey says. "How it went was as follows: The first day you'd start at 50 milligrams and then jog on a treadmill for 20 minutes, followed by getting into the sauna for the next five hours. Every 30 minutes, you could take a five-minute break, but they'd time your breaks to where you were doing your full five hours."
"AN END TO CRAVINGS" and possibly life.
Experts recommend spending no longer than 15 to 20 minutes in a sauna, so it's impressive that Jeffrey is still standing. And that's only the first day -- we haven't even gotten to the poison yet. Narconon has this whole medicine thing so backward that they've figured out how to poison people with vitamins. The second day, you get more niacin. "Each day they'd bump you up until you reach 5,000 milligrams," Jeffrey says. "Once up to a high dose, like 250 milligrams is what it took me, you get to where you turn bright red and get hives. My skin would feel on fire."
"Take two piles and scream for me in the morning."
Had there been a doctor in the house, they would have advised Jeffrey to get to the hospital right away. And then they would've been lectured about thetans or some bullshit until they rolled their eyes so hard their retinas detached. In case you're wondering -- yes, some of the deaths at Narconon have involved kidney and liver failure, which is consistent with the symptoms of niacin poisoning. So get off that evil, poisonous heroin, son, and get onto the really good poison.
And Yes, They Do Try To Break You Down During All Of This
If you've survived The Gauntlet Of Bad Ideas so far, you're in for a treat. "Then the indoctrination begins," Jeffrey says. "They had us start OT TR-0 (OT being 'Operating Thetan,' TR being 'training routine'). It consists of sitting across from someone face-to-face with eyes closed, for an hour."
That sounds like a goddamn vacation after your hot, wet poisoning, but you're not allowed to move at all or fall asleep. "I have severe anxiety and couldn't do it; plus I have back pain, so anytime I moved or anything, I had to start over," Jeffrey says. "Needless to say, it was a nightmare."
At least you can walk out on a shitty Tinder meet.
Still, he somehow graduated to the next level, where even more torture and confusion awaited. "TR-1 is the same but eyes open, and they almost expect you not to blink," Jeffrey says. "TR-2, they have you do what they call 'acks,' short for 'acknowledging,' where someone says something and you acknowledge them. TR-3 is similar, but TR-4 is what they call the bullpen. You sit staring straight while people try to get a reaction out of you."
Well, that almost sounds fun! Like some kind of party game ...
"I had recently tried to kill myself, and they laughed about it, so I got up and refused to go back to that part of program."
... at the worst party in history.
The End Goal, Of Course, Is To Recruit You
Little did Jeffrey know, he was walking into not just a rehab facility but a job training program. Narconon routinely recruits its employees from its patients. "The day you graduate the program, you can start working there as an employee," he says. "So all the people working there had been through the program and had been clean under a year."
That nasty niacin addiction doesn't count, because the Galactic Confederacy said so.
They're typically as inexperienced in medicine as they are in sobriety, which explains a lot. But contrary to the popular notion that drug addicts are allergic to work, a ready-made job was too tempting to resist for many in Jeffrey's cohort.
"Some took the job and beliefs dead serious; others had burned every bridge in their life and had nowhere else to go," Jeffrey says. But working for the Church of Scientology isn't quite like what we all fantasized about as children: "It was basically slave labor, with a never-ending flow of new workers when needed."
Like when departing workers rudely renege on their two-psychotic-mental-breakdown notice and just leave.
Along with low pay and the requirement to live on-site -- the better to cult you with, my dear -- the rules are surprisingly prudish for an industry run by Hollywood. "Couples cannot live with, or be in each other's on-site housing, without being married, so there were multiple couples who'd know each other three to five months -- including as patients, most likely -- and then would get married," Jeffrey says. "Having children was borderline forbidden, and rumors of forced abortions, but I never saw proof."
Well, of course -- we wouldn't want recently recovered addicts to be rushing into any hasty commitments.
They Want To Bleed You Dry
Luckily, Jeffrey wasn't so easily recruited. "I started hearing about Captain Xenu and begged to leave," he says. They didn't exactly hold him hostage, which is sincerely surprising at this point, but "the taxi companies that serviced the area refused to come there unless they were told to by the facility staff," Jeffrey says. "Not quite sure how that worked." Remember, this place is 35 miles to the nearest gas station -- you're not walking to the airport. They also impress upon him that he needed to finish by making him feel like his life literally depended on the program. "So I stuck it out, and about two weeks later, my insurance cut out," he says.
You'd think a religion based around Rob Halford as Magneto would be more awesomely badass, but you'd be so very wrong.
Narconon charges around $23,000 for a three-month stay, so the people who were so concerned about his well being yesterday suddenly couldn't wait to put him on the street. OK, that's not fair: They decided they could wait an entire hour.
"They gave me one hour to figure out a way to leave, despite days before," Jeffrey says. "Luckily, someone there had money and bought me a ticket home."
We never thought we'd say it, but thank god for the stingy health insurance industry!
Those filthy Scientologists will never track Manna down; they can go ahead and try.
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