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Scientology hails study vindicating its rehab program — so we take a closer look

[Sauna success? Professor Dave Touretzky takes a look at the fine print]

Recently, one of our correspondents forwarded us a press release put out by Scientology’s drug rehab outfit, Narconon, which was boasting about a new study finally providing some scientific evidence to back up L. Ron Hubbard’s ideas about treating drug abuse.

Our correspondent sounded crestfallen that Narconon had finally managed to get a peer-reviewed study published which seemed to confirm what Scientology has been saying all along about its cold-turkey, sauna-based treatment regimen.

Well, hang on, we said. Let’s make sure someone who actually knows something about scientific studies gets a look at this. We turned to Carnegie Mellon University Professor Dave Touretzky, who has been keeping an eye on Narconon for far longer than we have, and who maintains extensive web pages about how Narconon really works. We’re glad we did, because Touretzky had plenty of questions about the study. We’ll let him take it from here…

The publisher (SAGE Publishing) publishes over 1,000 open access (meaning “pay to publish”) journals. They are not considered “predatory publishers,” which are the real scum of the academic publishing world. But they’re not uniformly high quality either. They were caught in a 2013 sting by a Science reporter who submitted an obviously bullshit article to one of their journals and had it accepted. Interesting coincidence: this is precisely the journal where the Narconon paper appears: the Journal of International Medical Research.


The paper itself makes very modest claims: the title only says “safety and tolerability,” not “effectiveness.” Placebos are also safe and tolerable. Is the Narconon program measurably more effective than a placebo treatment? The authors explicitly refuse to say that. (See below.)

There are several glaring problems with the paper.

First, the title is inaccurate because the the text of the study does make effectiveness claims. (But remember: placebos are effective too.)

Second, these claims of effectiveness are based entirely on self-reporting on computerized surveys. There is no objective measurement of any patient outcomes other than completion of the study (106 of the 107 subjects completed the study), and unanticipated medical events. I have not looked into the legitimacy of the SF-36 assessment they’re using.

Third, because the study did not involve any physiological measurements, it provides no support for Narconon’s long history of outlandish claims about toxins being released through sweat and visibly staining the towels in the sauna. No purple or orange stained towels were reported.

This was a mild version of the detox program. It used slow titration of niacin — with no information on the final dosages used, but they allegedly stopped increasing the dosage once a niacin “flush” was achieved. In the past we’ve heard horror stories about Narconon course supervisors raising niacin doses to astronomical levels: think thousands of milligrams. And sauna sessions were limited to 4.5 hours a day with frequent breaks, which is again more humane than what some Narconon course supervisors require.

All we really know from this study is that people subjected to this mild form of the detox program tolerated it and said they felt better.

There are more details that I haven’t had time to look into, such as the table of “unanticipated events” (table 8) that includes all kinds of problems like body aches, diarrhea, drug cravings, skin rash, sore throat, etc. Since there was no control group, and these people were unhealthy drug addicts to begin with, it’s hard to assess this. But nobody died or passed out in the sauna, so that’s nice.

There’s a long speculative discussion section about “How might the Hubbard method produce improvements in well-being and health” that can safely be ignored. Since no one has demonstrated that the method actually produces beneficial effects at above placebo levels, there’s no point in speculating about how these alleged effects might be produced.

The authors are quite candid in the “Limitations” paragraph of the discussion section, pointing out all the flaws. You can skip the rest of the article and jump to the money quote:

The reported outcome changes should be interpreted with caution. Pre–post-sauna detoxification improvements in health and well-being may be a result of the regimen; however, without a comparison group, it is impossible to know how much change might have occurred over the same length of time from continued sobriety, strong expectations or placebo effect. Intensive daily contact, exercise and improved nutrition may account for improvements regardless of actual elimination of residual drug metabolites, which was not demonstrated or quantified in this study.

So the bottom line is that the authors took Narconon’s money (Narconon is disclosed as the funder of the study), delivered the journal article Narconon was paying them for, and right at the end admitted the whole thing was a pointless exercise that shows only that the Narconon program is “tolerable.” Bravo for them.

The authors, Richard D. Lennox and Marie A. Cecchini-Sternquist (who also published as Marie Sternquist), have a long history as Narconon supporters. The present article contains a citation (#29) where Lennox and Sternquist are the first two authors, and the third author is none other than Alfonso Paredes! And see this list from Google Scholar.

Here are a couple of their other prior works:


March 19, 2008: The NARCONON™ drug education curriculum for high school students: A non-randomized, controlled prevention trial

Sept 16, 2003: A Simplified Method for Routine Outcome Monitoring after Drug Abuse Treatment

There are more. They’ve been churning out Narconon propaganda for quite a while. I guess it pays the bills.

— Dave Touretzky


New but very familiar lawsuit filed against Narconon Arrowhead

Remember a few years ago, when Ryan Hamilton and a few other attorneys were filing dozens of lawsuits on behalf of people who felt they’d been harmed as Narconon patients? Yeah, those were good times. Predictably, Scientology eventually made all of those lawsuits go away with settlements, and it’s been pretty quiet in the last two years.

But now there’s a new suit that’s been filed against Narconon Arrowhead, Scientology’s flagship rehab in Oklahoma, and it sounds awfully familiar. Parent sends her kid to Narconon, is shocked to learn he’s getting Scientology training instead of drug counseling, finds out that her son is made so ill by the sauna treatment that he had to get rushed to a local emergency room, and he left after only three weeks of the program that she’d paid $32,500 for.

She now says that Narconon lied about everything — having medical staff on hand, for example. Shocker!

We loved this line from the complaint: “Plaintiff’s Son was forced to hold his hands against a wall and speak to said wall for extended periods of time.”

Anyway, we hope that Sefika Talic has good luck with her lawsuit which, if history is a guide, should get her a five or six-figure check in about a year.

Here’s the filing…


Talic v. Narconon Complaint by on Scribd

Meanwhile, here’s a reminder that the people who should really have done something about Narconon’s shameful lies were the cowardly officials at the state of Oklahoma…



Scientology’s celebrities and ‘Ideal Orgs’ — now with comments!

[The Big Three: Tom Cruise, John Travolta, and Kirstie Alley]

We’re building landing pages about David Miscavige’s favorite playthings, including celebrities and ‘Ideal Orgs.’ We’re hoping you’ll join in and help us gather as much information as we can about them, in order to build a record and maintain a watch as Scientology continues its inexorable decline — and yes, we finally have comments working on these new pages! Head on over and help us with links and photos and comments.

Scientology’s celebrities, from A to Z! Find your favorite Hubbardite celeb at this index page — or suggest someone to add to the list!

Scientology’s ‘Ideal Orgs,’ from one end of the planet to the other! Help us build up pages about each these worldwide locations!

Today’s Ideal Org: New York, New York!



Coming November 1



[ONE year ago] Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard as a cop in Los Angeles: What’s the real truth?
[TWO years ago] Scientology will go after your kids with its quack ideas on drugs — even at a Christian school
[THREE years ago] At the end of our journey, we offer thanks to this website’s supporters
[FOUR years ago] Scientology outside the official church: ‘I’m quite happy with the world the way it is’
[FIVE years ago] Clearwater Tent Showdown: Scientology Reportedly Getting Ready for Events Next Week
[SIX years ago] Another Scientology Victory: Photos of Marc Headley’s Roof Being Repaired!


Scientology disconnection, a reminder

Bernie Headley has not seen his daughter Stephanie in 5,253 days.
Katrina Reyes has not seen her mother Yelena in 1,886 days
Sylvia Wagner DeWall has not seen her brother Randy in 1,366 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his grandson Leo in 429 days.
Geoff Levin has not seen his son Collin and daughter Savannah in 317 days.
Clarissa Adams has not seen her parents Walter and Irmin Huber in 1,492 days.
Carol Nyburg has not seen her daughter Nancy in 2,266 days.
Jamie Sorrentini Lugli has not seen her father Irving in 3,040 days.
Quailynn McDaniel has not seen her brother Sean in 2,386 days.
Dylan Gill has not seen his father Russell in 10,952 days.
Melissa Paris has not seen her father Jean-Francois in 6,872 days.
Valeska Paris has not seen her brother Raphael in 3,039 days.
Mirriam Francis has not seen her brother Ben in 2,620 days.
Claudio and Renata Lugli have not seen their son Flavio in 2,880 days.
Sara Goldberg has not seen her daughter Ashley in 1,920 days.
Lori Hodgson has not seen her son Jeremy and daughter Jessica in 1,632 days.
Marie Bilheimer has not seen her mother June in 1,158 days.
Joe Reaiche has not seen his daughter Alanna Masterson in 5,247 days
Derek Bloch has not seen his father Darren in 2,387 days.
Cindy Plahuta has not seen her daughter Kara in 2,707 days.
Roger Weller has not seen his daughter Alyssa in 7,563 days.
Claire Headley has not seen her mother Gen in 2,682 days.
Ramana Dienes-Browning has not seen her mother Jancis in 1,038 days.
Mike Rinder has not seen his son Benjamin and daughter Taryn in 5,340 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his daughter Spring in 1,446 days.
Skip Young has not seen his daughters Megan and Alexis in 1,849 days.
Mary Kahn has not seen her son Sammy in 1,720 days.
Lois Reisdorf has not seen her son Craig in 1,303 days.
Phil and Willie Jones have not seen their son Mike and daughter Emily in 1,808 days.
Mary Jane Sterne has not seen her daughter Samantha in 2,052 days.
Kate Bornstein has not seen her daughter Jessica in 13,161 days.


3D-UnbreakablePosted by Tony Ortega on October 30, 2018 at 07:00

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The Best of the Underground Bunker, 1995-2017 Just starting out here? We’ve picked out the most important stories we’ve covered here at the Undergound Bunker (2012-2017), The Village Voice (2008-2012), New Times Los Angeles (1999-2002) and the Phoenix New Times (1995-1999)

Learn about Scientology with our numerous series with experts…

BLOGGING DIANETICS: We read Scientology’s founding text cover to cover with the help of L.A. attorney and former church member Vance Woodward
UP THE BRIDGE: Claire Headley and Bruce Hines train us as Scientologists
GETTING OUR ETHICS IN: Jefferson Hawkins explains Scientology’s system of justice
SCIENTOLOGY MYTHBUSTING: Historian Jon Atack discusses key Scientology concepts

Other links: Shelly Miscavige, ten years gone | The Lisa McPherson story told in real time | The Cathriona White stories | The Leah Remini ‘Knowledge Reports’ | Hear audio of a Scientology excommunication | Scientology’s little day care of horrors | Whatever happened to Steve Fishman? | Felony charges for Scientology’s drug rehab scam | Why Scientology digs bomb-proof vaults in the desert | PZ Myers reads L. Ron Hubbard’s “A History of Man” | Scientology’s Master Spies | The mystery of the richest Scientologist and his wayward sons | Scientology’s shocking mistreatment of the mentally ill | The Underground Bunker’s Official Theme Song | The Underground Bunker FAQ

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