The jewel Narconon, a rehabilitation facility intended to end addiction to drugs and alcohol without more drugs or other “chemical” treatments, situated in Canadian, Oklahoma has been in the media spotlight after three deaths at the Arrowhead campus. Three deaths, including one in the last week, has brought attention to the center and its treatment of addicts in their facility. Narconon expresses that their success rate is 85% to 95%, which is unheard of considering other rehabilitation centers report success rates at 20% to 30%. The main problem with the program is that it is a front group for Scientology, using “tech” such as the purification rundown to treat patients. The website for Narconon can be found here and the pages that oppose and expose Narconon can be found here and here. It should also be noted that a Narconon facility in Canada had been closed by the equivalent of the US Department of Health because of serious concerns that it provided health risks, not benefits. The center, which was in Quebec, closed its doors abruptly causing an anonymous woman to retrieve her son without explanation even though she paid thousands to get him rehabilitated from an oxycontin addiction. It all begs the question: What is Narconon doing that is terribly wrong, so wrong that it kills?

Getting some basics out front, one must realize that when any addict (even alcoholics) are placed in a rehabilitation center, they are not given the drug of their choice to use while detoxification takes place. During this time, addicts will go through withdrawal, for some addicts like alcoholics, that withdrawal period can be physically dangerous resulting in death. When a person goes through such a detoxification, the body will do whatever it takes to get the user to use, often causing pain, difficulty breathing, irregular heartbeat, sweats, shakes, and a variety of other symptoms. During this period, many rehabilitation centers will administer prescription drugs to ease their discomfort, anxiety, and symptoms. If a period of days goes by where the user has not used and a visitor brings them drugs that the addict uses in a dosage that was normal before entering the center, the user can experience an overdose due to the body’s drug tolerance lowering in absence of the drug of choice. This can lead to heart attack, respiratory distress or failure, or other organ failure and the like; often resulting in the death of the user. It is not an uncommon occurrence in rehabilitation centers, however it is very unusual that three patients would die within seven to ten months. This is what has happened at Narconon Arrowhead.

At Narconon Arrowhead there is a lack of medical professional employees. The employees are usually Narconon “graduates” and there is one doctor on staff. In only rare circumstances are patients given drugs needed for other medical issues unrelated to their addiction, as Scientology as a whole is resistant to the use of doctor prescribed medicine or psychotropic medication provided by psychiatrists because of L. Ron Hubbard’s adverse opinion that doctors are unnecessary and psychiatrist were behind the destruction of mankind. Using training tech that is applied to “preclears” in the Church of Scientology called TRs, the user is expected to learn how to communicate and take command of their bodies. Some of these TRs involve staring at someone without blinking for hours, not reacting to being screamed at, and issuing a Scientology accepted response to a barrage of questions. Instead of treating the addiction with medication that can ease withdrawal, “touch assists” are administered. A “touch assist” is akin to laying on hands, but the administrator asks consistently “Can you feel my finger here?” at various points of the body until the person feels well. L. Ron Hubbard’s main concern for addicts were that they were out of communication with the world around them and needed to learn how to communicate properly. According to hundreds of Hubbard authored documents, the addict was stuck in his or her “past”. There are no case studies, proper double blind studies, or any other scientifically acceptable methodology of proper tested proof that any of Hubbard’s claims actually work beyond the assumption of placebo success. Imagine, just for a moment, that you are an addict suffering with terrible withdrawal without so much as a anti-anxiety medication or other medication trying to stare at someone for an hour without blinking. It seems terribly inhumane, yet the program of rehabilitation only grows worse from here.

There are times in a Scientologist’s life where he or she is required to undergo something called the “Purification Rundown”. It is believed by Hubbard that toxins flowing through one’s body makes it difficult to achieve a better if not happier state of existence. It is far better for the Scientologist to purify one’s body from years of prescription drug usage, eating food that may have been unclean, metallic compounds, and other various and sundry toxins floating about in the body. In order to purify the body, extremely high doses of niacin, also known as B3, are taken orally and the Scientologist would spend hours every day in a sauna. Hubbard believed that niacin cleared the body of toxins stored in fat cells that can be released at a later time. The extreme dosages of niacin can cause one’s hair to fall out, drying or cracking skin, increased liver enzymes, yellowing of the skin, higher levels of abdominal fluid, liver damage or liver failure, circulatory collapse, possible heart disease, blood clots, low white blood cell counts, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, muscle and joint pain, loss of muscle strength, fainting, headache, seizures, irritability, mental instability, confusion, fatigue, cloudy urine, and frequent urination. Vitamin and mineral supplements are given to the addict in order to assist with the purification. Over exposure to high heat and humidity experienced in a sauna can cause heat issues such has heat stroke and dehydration. The “Purification Rundown” is not medically proven to assist anyone with detoxification, but has been rather successful in causing more health problems than health improvements. Narconon does have added to the program for the addict that if kidney or liver problems or anemia exists; the purification process is not suggested.

The Scientology tech known as “study tech” is taught to the addict next, which primarily teaches one to use a dictionary to understand every possible meaning of any given word the addict doesn’t understand. This is called an m/u in Scientology. Hubbard strongly believed that people could not excel in learning if they got stuck on words they were unable to understand. Then Hubbard’s concept of “social” and “antisocial” people are taught. This is the belief that 20% of the population is “antisocial” and they are responsible for wars, drugs, psychiatry, and any other ill striking the world as we know it. Scientology ethics are taught, without any kind of obfuscation. The linear connection between Scientology and the treatment of patients at Narconon are one and the same, Hubbard’s failed and faulty “tech” is brought to bear on those struggling through the program without proper medical care to address the issues of general health, ease of suffering, conducive and productive means in which to productively combat drug addiction, treatment of issues unrelated to drug addiction, emotional and psychological tools to produce successful responsibility for one’s actions, or the psychiatric care for other mental instability or illness that may develop. The real question remains: Why did these three people at Narconon Arrowhead die? What happened?

Stacy Murphy, 20, died of an overdose after returning to the program for assistance with a prescription painkiller addiction. Due to Narconon’s lack of knowledgeable and well trained medical staff or even a physician, Murphy was left in a room by herself without any supervision or treatment, such as administration of the drug Narcon which would combat the effects of an opiate drug by nullifying the effect. Not only did Murphy test positive for opiates upon her return, lack of supervision of medical staff trained in dealing with addicts or even medical issues surrounding them led to her being able to overdose in the privacy of her own room. Patient neglect and woefully inadequate medical attention is directly responsible for her death and ignited an investigation into the facility. Stacy Murphy was in the program for a total of six weeks before being found dead Thursday, July 19th at the facility. Gabriel Graves, 32 and Hillary Holten, 21 were also found dead at the facility, Graves on October 26 and Holten on April 11. Another woman, Kaysie Dianne Werninck, 28, died March 3, 2009 after being transported from the facility to a hospital. Werninck’s family sued and it was settled out of court for a confidential amount; a Church of Scientology most preferred method for dealing with cases they are responsible for. Of course, the Pittsburg County Oklahoma police are investigating the three deaths right now and are awaiting a toxicology report on Murphy.

In related news the roommate of Murphy, Destanie Ramsey, 19 said she was held against her will at the facility when staff told her mother that she could not leave. Her mother, being bright, called the sheriff’s office who were dispatched to Narconon. Upon asking Ms. Ramsey if she would like to leave and getting an affirmative reply, sheriffs escorted her out and her mother was reunited with her. Ramsey asked to leave after Murphy was found dead in their room at the facility and was given a negative response. It has also come to the attention of local papers that the facility does not have staff covering the patients 24 hours, leaving a wide berth for unsupervised activity to occur during those hours.

If a facility is designed to rehabilitate addicts, why wouldn’t a patient who no longer wanted to be there is not permitted to leave? Further, why have three deaths occurred there in a matter of seven months? It will be interesting to continue to report on this developing story as the investigation matures.