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Media Articles - 1980s

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Scientology 'purification' rite used by anti-addiction centres

By Lindsay Scotton

The Toronto Star
June 14, 1986

A controversial "purification" regime used by the Church of Scientology to advance members' spiritual enlightenment is also being used by Narconon, a drug and alcohol rehabilitation centre, and is being offered at a Toronto health clinic.

The "Purification Rundown" used by Narconon and the Lafayette Health Centre uses large vitamin dosages, exercise and long hours in the sauna to "cleanse" the body of accumulated impurities, according to Narconon officials and the health centre's director.

Costs of the treatment offered at Narconon can range up $6,000, and the way
in which it is used has come under the scrutiny of the Ontario College of Physicians and Surgeons.

A leading Toronto nutritionist told The Star there is "no evidence in scientific literature" that the program can actually rid tissues of residual chemicals or toxins.

Complaint received

Developed by Lafayette Ron Hubbard, founder of the Church of Scientology, the Purification Rundown is also offered at church headquarters on Yonge St. There, it is applied in a spiritual context to improve church members' ability to become "clear" - to reach their highest level of understanding and function according to church teachings.

The Purification Rundown has been offered to Metro doctors as a way of getting patients off drugs and alcohol.

In April, 1984, Ian Haworth of the Toronto-based Council on Mind Abuse (COMA), wrote to the Ontario College of Physicians and Surgeons to complain about a mass-mailing letter sent to the province's doctors from Narconon.

"Dear Physician," the letter read in part, "Do you have patients who have failed to handle a drug addiction problem? As chairman of the board of directors of Narconon, Toronto, and as a general practitioner in Toronto, I would like to recommend the Narconon program . . .

"In addition, Narconon provides services which help addicted persons handle the personal reasons which caused them to become involved with drugs in the first place."

Cult concerns

The letter is signed by Dr. Kathleen Kerr, who practises at the Lafayette Health Centre.

A letter sent to Haworth from the college indicates "the Narconon situation has been one that has been of concern to the college for sometime now . . . An individual person, who was placed in this stream by his physician, has approached the college and supplied us with considerable information respecting the manner in which" he was apparently encouraged to join Scientology.

The letter is signed by John R. Carlisle, associate registrar in the college's professional assessment department.

Officials at the college refused to confirm or deny any investigation of Narconon, the Lafayette Health Centre or any physicians involved with offering the Purification Rundown. Information about such investigations is not made public until and unless disciplinary action is taken.

"We are concerned about the risk that cults pose in modern society," said Haworth, "and it is of particular concern that professional people . . . should not be allowed to use their positions of authority to recruit new members."

The Church of Scientology, founded in 1954 by L. Ron Hubbard and his wife Mary Sue Hubbard, claims more than 6 million followers all over the world. The "bible" of the movement is Hubbard's best-selling book Dianetics: The Modern Science Of Mental Health.

According to Hubbard, man's progress is blocked by negative thoughts left over from traumatic experiences suffered by our remote ancestors many millions of years ago.

Recruiting denied

Through "auditing," Scientologists retrace their previous lives, bringing negative thoughts and feelings about past transgressions into the open, where they can be confronted. This is done by using an "E-Meter" - a device made of tin cans, wire and a needle-and graph system similar to a lie detector.

According to Scientologists, the E-Meter, when grasped by the client, shows levels of pain and distress. Fees are charged for the auditing process; according to former members, $1,500 for 25 hours of counselling is about average.

In the mid-1970s, the Purification Rundown became standard procedure for church members wishing to advance the pace of the auditing.

Officials at Narconon and at the Lafayette Health Centre deny recruiting or indoctrinating people into Scientology.

"Well, there is a connection, there's a strong connection, and the connection is L. Ron Hubbard," said Bill Perry, executive director of Narconon. "We definitely use the methods developed by L. Ron Hubbard here. But we're not here to indoctrinate people into the church. We're here to get people off drugs."

A large photograph of Hubbard is displayed on Perry's office wall, along with a poster asking: "It costs a fortune to be strung out . . . What's it worth to kick (an addiction) and be really free again?"

According to Perry, programs offered at Narconon can cost $6,000 or more. "Costs vary from person to person, depending on the case. Some cases are very resistant." He added that Narconon's counselling services sometimes cost nothing.

Chemical residues

"Some kids, when you tell them the long-range effects (of drug abuse), they make a Hubbard pro-survival decision," and decide to kick drugs independently, said Perry, who credits the Hubbard technique with helping him defeat a heroin addiction.

The average course of treatment lasts about 21 days, he explained, but "more and more" people going through the program are not, in fact, addicted to drugs or alcohol.

Instead, he said, many Narconon clients suffer from chemical residues picked up from exposure to pesticides and other toxic substances in the environment.

Narconon Inc. is registered with the federal government as a charitable institution, which allows it to issue receipts for tax-deductible donations. Its Toronto offices opened in 1972 and, according to Perry, at first offered mainly counselling and group support based on the principles of Scientology.

At one time, the group's telephone number was listed inside the front cover of the Metro Toronto phone directory as the number to call for drug crisis emergency assistance.

Bell Canada discontinued the listing in 1980, after questions were asked in the Ontario Legislature about possible links between Narconon and the Church of Scientology.

Julian Hay, a Narconon staff member who lectures about drug abuse in local schools, described the Purification Rundown as a way to "mobilize and get rid of chemicals stored in fatty tissues."

Niacin (nicotinic acid) is taken in doses starting at 50 to 100 milligrams a day at the start of the program and is gradually increased to about 5,000 mg daily. It is combined with Vitamins A, D, C, E and B complex, mineral supplements and a calcium-magnesium preparation called Cal-Mag.

Old sunburns

Clients also spend four to five hours a day in a dry sauna to "run out" drug residues and toxins and take doses of polyunsaturated oil to "exchange the dirty fat for clean fat," according to Hay.

He said that clients undergoing the purification regime "turn on" drug residues left in their systems, then "run through" the drug until it is flushed out. This he claimed, explains any tiredness, nausea or discomfort that a client undergoing the process might feel.

"I've seen people turn on old sunburns, radiation, and a woman who had had an operation when she was 6 years old actually turned on ether," he said. A booklet describing the Purification Rundown, sold for $15 at Narconon's offices, warns that large doses of niacin can produce hot flushes, itchy skin, hives and aching bones.

"Whatever the effect, it is the niacin handling an existing niacin deficiency in the cells," says the booklet.

In a "Notice to Reader" in the front of the booklet, L. Ron Hubbard tells readers that "no broad medical acceptance has been sought by the author. This book represents a record of researches and results noted by the author. It cannot be construed as a recommendation of medical treatment or medication . . . The author makes no warranties or representations as to the effectiveness of the Purification Program."

According to Dr. Harding le Riche, an expert in epidemiology and biostatistics at the University of Toronto and author of The Complete Family Guide To Nutrition And Meal Planning, claims that the Purification Rundown can cleanse the body of drugs and chemicals "have no basis in scientific

"There is no experimental evidence to show that what they claim is actually possible," said le Riche, who has studied and written extensively about the properties of niacin and other vitamins.

"It's trendy, all this interest in mega-vitamin doses - people love this sort of thing," he added. "They are trading on the public's new interest in nutrition. Ron Hubbard was not a doctor and he was not a scientist."

Le Riche warned that high doses of niacin may cause liver damage. He called the claim that the Purification Rundown may help get rid of radiation "absolute and complete nonsense."

Narconon staff members pay the Church of Scientology for training in how to deliver the Purification Rundown - called "Purif" by those in the know - and Narconon receives a commission from the church if its clients go on to buy courses, training or seminars from the church after their treatments.

Complete checkup

Narconon staffers are required to sign a contract stating they "have never sued Narconon or the Church of Scientology or made complaint to any government authority with respect to any part or principal of either."

Other clauses in the contract include: "I am not related to or connected to intelligence agencies either by past history or immediate familial connections; I am not here to obtain news stories or data for any other organization."

Both Perry and Hay said they are Scientologists and acknowledged that anyone who is an "antagonist" of the church would have a hard time working for Narconon.

Dr. Paul Jaconello, medical director of the Lafayette Health Centre, said the Purification Rundown offered at his clinic costs $2,500 for "as long as it takes to work."

Clients who decide to enter any Purif program must first have a complete medical checkup, usually done at the health centre. While fees for the Purif program itself are not covered by the Ontario Health Insurance Plan, the cost of the mandatory physical examination is covered.

Jaconello said he also receives a commission from the Church of Scientology if his patients buy Scientology materials.

"But it would be a conflict of interest for me to retain that," he added, "so I redonate it to the Church of Scientology or to Narconon."

The doctor said he recommends the program to patients who have allergies or who seem to be suffering from "a buildup of toxic residues" in their systems.

Hair analysis, along with blood and urine tests, is used at the centre to determine if a patient has such residues or is deficient in vitamins or minerals.

Spiritual guidance

Jaconello said he would not recommend the Purif program to anyone who had heart disease or a history of kidney problems.

"We don't have a connection to Scientology," he stressed. "We're Scientologist doctors practising nutritional medicine. The object is not to get people into Scientology. It's great if they do, but it's not important."

Jaconello, himself a member of the church, said he feels he has a right to refer people to Scientology for spiritual guidance, in the same way that a Catholic physician might refer a patient to his parish priest for help.

A brief biography of Jaconello, published in the July, 1979, issue of Source, a Scientology magazine, says: " . . . He is also opening a new medical clinic with two other Scientology doctors. He plans to get Dianetics (a procedure developed by L. Ron Hubbard that forms the basis of Scientology) applied by doctors in the medical field in Canada, and do a LOT of FSMing to get more people into Scientology."

FSM stands for Field Staff Member in the acronym-laden private vocabulary of Scientology.

"A lot of our patients come here by word of mouth, and they know we are Scientologists, and it doesn't seem to put them off," said Jaconello.

Sam Foster, who underwent a course of treatment at Narconon two years ago, certainly was put off. He told The Star his story on the understanding that his real name not be used.

'Lot of pain'

Sam first went to Narconon in the fall of 1984. A long drug binge had cost him his job, his self-respect and his health. He had stopped taking drugs about five months before his first Narconon treatments, but said he was still deeply depressed by the "mess" he had made of his life.

During his first interview at Narconon, Sam was questioned while using the E-Meter. "They said the needle was registering a lot of pain and that they needed $2,000 up front to start the treatments," he recalled.

He promised to make the payment and also agreed to sign documents saying "I would not hold Narconon responsible for any ill effects or for any statements I made to the press. I had to sign a paper that said I wasn't an informer."

Sam said he was not given copies of the documents he signed. He added he was encouraged to buy books about Scientology and to enrol in Scientology study courses.

One day, he related, he overheard two staff members discussing how much a new client was worth to the organization. "I felt really bad when I heard that and realized I just had to get out."

Four days after he left Narconon, Sam checked into a psychiatric hospital, where he was diagnosed as a manic depressive. On medication now, he said he is able to cope with his life again.

"I think the main thing that members of the public should remember," stressed Ian Haworth of COMA, "is that they have the right to a second opinion if their doctor recommends a regime like the Purification Rundown."

"To say that Narconon and Scientology are not connected is absurd - ex-members describe Narconon as part of the empire, and the directors and medical advisers are Scientologists. People should be aware that that's what they're dealing with."