Any therapy which aims to modify the workings of the body - which Narconon clearly does, principally through its detoxification process - necessarily has to rely on having a good scientific basis for its methodology. Narconon fails badly on this score. As is discussed in more detail in "Hubbard's Junk Science", Narconon's therapy is based on a ramshackle assortment of unproven and physically impossible theories of drug effects and rehabilitation. To make matters worse, those who deliver Narconon's courses - individuals who are invariably either Scientologists or graduates of Narconon - have been encouraged to develop an unquestioning trust of Hubbard's theories, which are treated as infallible. Worse still, as those theories are officially part of the "sacred scriptures" of the Church of Scientology, they are not subject to the normal scientific process and. By Hubbard's express orders, they cannot be modified even if new medical evidence shows them to be untrue or unsafe.
This presents real risks to Narconon's clients. As "Dangerous Detoxification" explains, the Hubbard therapy relies on massive overdoses of vitamins and minerals, often as much as ten times more than the safe limits. Toxic side-effects such as the intense and uncomfortable flushes caused by niacin overdoses are regarded as desirable, thanks to Hubbard's misunderstanding of what actually causes such symptoms. Other side-effects are interpreted as being the result of toxins being sweated out, even though all the medical evidence points to sweat being only a very minor mechanism in the excretion of toxins from the body.
The abrupt cessation of drug ingestion is also a serious risk. Hubbard claims that a combination of vitamins and "assists" (a Scientology version of "laying on hands") can help an addict to overcome withdrawal symptoms. There is no medical evidence to support this, particularly where physical symptoms are concerned; neither vitamins nor faith healing will do anything to help restore the equilibrium of a drug addict's brain chemistry. Indeed, Narconon is actively hostile to chemicals that are designed to modify brain chemistry - in common with its Scientology origins, it disparages psychiatry and takes the (entirely ideological) line that anything that affects the mind is a spiritual rather than a medical issue, despite all the evidence to the contrary.
When the State of Oklahoma examined Narconon's therapeutic methods in 1991, its reporting team noted the risks caused by Narconon's bad science:
The Narconon program presents a potential risk to the patients of the Narconon program that delayed withdrawal phenomena such as seizures, delirium or hallucination that are occasionally seen several days after cessation of drugs such as benzodiazepines, may be misinterpreted by Narconon's non-medical staff as the effect of mobilizing the drug from fat during the sauna sweat-out procedure period. There is also a potential risk that the reported re-experience of the abused drugs' effect during the sauna sweat-out program may be the result of misinterpreted symptoms of hyperthermia or electrolyte imbalance ...
There is credible evidence by way of witness testimony and review of Narconon charts which reflect that there were patients who had psychiatric problems who were taken off of their previously prescribed psychiatric medication who did not do well and subsequently developed psychiatric problems. This evidence indicates a lack of safety and effectiveness in connection with the program.
Clients of Narconon suffering from psychiatric illness, when taken off their prescribed medications, did poorly in the Narconon program and were placed in a segregated facility called destem [sic - probably "destim", i.e. "destimulation"]. This practice endangers the safety, health and/or the physical and mental well being of Narconon's clients.
["Findings of Fact regarding the Narconon-Chilocco Application For Certification by the Board of Mental Health, State of Oklahoma", 13 December 1991]