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Media Articles - 2000s

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10 December 2002
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"Klarspråk" ["Clear Speaking"] debate

Sveriges Radio P1, Sweden
27 June 2001

[This is an informal translation of a comment on Narconon that was aired on the debate program 'Klarspråk' on the Swedish national radio, Sveriges Radio P1, June 27th 2001. It was part of an ongoing debate about Scientology and Narconon.

The speaker is Mats Fridell, Associate Professor at the University of Lund, Department of Psychology, Division of Clinical Psychology.]

One of my works [the book 'Institutionella behandlingsformer vid missbruk - organisation, ideologi och resultat', Bokförlaget Natur och Kultur, 1996], a comprehensive review of institutional treatment of substance abusers, was recently quoted by Lars Krantz. In this work, I examined 350 evaluations from all over the world. My work does, as claimed, describe Scientology and Narconon, as well as a number of other types of self-help movements, their origins, and what kind of results the evaluation has found. Thus, I am not looking to criticize ideologies, but to do an examination of facts.

In the chapter about Narconon I quote a very critical report on Scientology by Omdal, 1983 ['Narconon - Scientology i forkledning', written for Sentralrådet for Narkotikaproblemer, the Norwegian Central Advisory Board on Drug Related Problems]. Further, I have taken part of the expert evaluation by Socialstyrelsen [Swedish National Board of Health] of the content of the treatment methods used in Narconon's work, and I have also taken part of the, as far as I know, only scientific study of Narconon in Sweden, made by Peter Gerdman in the beginning of the 1980s ['Utvärderingen av Narconon - en studie om och med en länkrörelse bland drogmissbrukare i Stockholm', Stockholm, May 1981].

The argument from one of Scientology's reverends in Stockholm that works this old are useless in order to view the results of Narconon's work, is unfortunately true in the respect that there really do not exist any later ones. Since I have taken part in a recently concluded international research review of all types of drug abuse treatments [] for SBU [The Swedish Council on Technology Assessment in Healthcare], I can only point out the fact that Narconon nationally, as well as internationally, has not evaluated its activities. Thus, their claims of curing thousands of drug addicts cannot in any way be proven.

The methods that Narconon uses to treat substance abusers are unscientific and lack effect on the actual addiction. They could possibly affect e.g. group cohesion in the [treatment] community. This conclusion is also the conclusion of Socialstyrelsen.

Also, detoxification carried out in that manner may be dangerous when detoxing from certain types of substances. One cannot have one single treatment routine for all types of addiction, at least not without some risk.

One criticism that could be levelled at Narconon is of course that they use low-qualified staff, who to a great extent are charity workers and who are not educated in treatment work. Narconon does in this aspect differ from other self-help movements such as AA or NA or Länkarna [a Swedish rehabilitation association]. These require that one has personal experience of substance abuse, but also demand formal training in various specific treatment methods. These methods have been tried scientifically, and have been shown to be effective for certain types of addicts.

It is natural that there exists drug addicts who have been helped by Narconon, there are those who will find help, support and a sense of belonging from this type of treatment, but the Narconon method is not a treatment method.

As to scientific evaluations, these are practically missing for Narconon, while there are a great number of evaluations of twelve-step treatment and Minnesota treatment. Several treatments based on the twelve steps of the self-help movement are effective for alcohol and multiple drug abusers, who also have still-functioning social ties. But the only Swedish study of Narconon that I have been able to find, an evaluation of Narconon by Peter Gerdman, shows that 77 percent left the treatment at a relatively early stage. Out of those who completed the treatment, 21 percent out of the original group could be followed up, and out of those 31 percent show improvement. But calculated on the entire group who entered the treatment, which is how one has to do it when calculating results, only 7 percent had gotten rehabilitated out of the total group.

Based on this evaluation, Narconon scores lower than any other functioning environmental therapy treatment, both as to treatment reports, results and evaluation over time.

The composition of the staff employed in the treatment work and the lack of education probably makes it difficult to keep up with methodology development in the field, much less evaluate their own activities in an unbiased manner. Here, Narconon resembles Scientology 's profile as a church. But Narconon does not resemble other self-help movements, neither in results, development of knowledge nor structure.