Does Narconon work?

Last updated
23 October 2002
Contents > Does Narconon work?

Narconon invariably makes claims of very high success rates - anything up to 85%, a remarkable figure when one considers that conventional drug rehabilitation programmes achieve only a rate of around 20-30%. It is, however, extraordinarily difficult to obtain the source data for such figures. They appear never to have been published by Narconon and the organisation does not respond to requests for the data - Gisle Hannemyr, a Norwegian investigator of Narconon, tried unsuccessfully for four years and the author of these pages has had a similarly frustrating experience. Even Narconon occasionally appears to find it difficult to back up its own claims - when it sought to repudiate a critic in Stuttgart, Germany, in 1993 it was unable to provide any evidence to support its claims of efficacy, leading the administrative court to conclude that "The papers filed by the petitioner offer no evidence of a successful drug withdrawal at the petitioner." [Decision of the Verwaltungsgerichtshof Stuttgart, 10 May 1993, Az: 1 S 3021/92]

Narconon's claimed evidence falls into three distinct categories: studies, research papers and success stories. The actual number of studies cited is surprisingly small, given Narconon's 25-year existence. Narconon's supporters have also produced a small body of research papers to support the organisation's claims. By far the largest body of evidence, however, is the reams of "success stories" written by individuals who have completed the Narconon programme. Each of these three groups of evidence is discussed in detail in the following pages:

The title of this section asks: "Does Narconon work?" In a sense, this is slightly the wrong question to ask - it is not simply a matter of whether Narconon works (clearly it does, for some people) but whether Narconon is widely effective. The organisation claims that it is, but the supporting evidence is far too thin to support such claims. It has to be said, in fairness, that the paucity of the data means that one can no more reliably say that Narconon does not work than that it does. There is simply too little evidence to tell either way. What can comfortably be said, though, is that Narconon's claims of very high success levels are wholly unreliable; a close examination of what evidence does exist shows that it has invariably been misquoted, misused or quite simply lied about by Narconon. In short, its claimed success rates are not credible and should not be believed.


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