July/August 2014 Church & State | People & Events

Reports indicate that an anti-drug program rooted in the Church of Scientology never left California’s public schools – even though it was supposedly removed nearly a decade ago.

A recent investigative report by Nanette Asimov of the San Francisco Chronicle detailed the resilience of “Narconon,” a Scientology-founded program that church members claim can help people wrestling with substance abuse.

Narconon representatives had been delivering anti-drug messages to public school students for years until 2005. That year, a $30,000 review by doctors and the California Department of Education concluded that the program had no basis in actual science or medicine. As a result, it lost its formal seal of approval.

Despite the negative report, the Chronicle said, 28 California public schools have offered Narconon lectures to students since 2007.

Critics say Narconon is based on the work of Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard. The Chronicle reviewed Narconon materials prepared for use in schools and found erroneous claims that ingested drugs remain stored in body fat for years. Supposedly, these stored drugs can leak out at some future point, particularly when an individual is feeling stres­sed. This can allegedly lead to relapse.

A Narconon website asserts that the drugs can be released by something as simple as “walking to the mail­box or getting in an argument with a family member where stress and increased heart rate and blood pressure occurs. Once these toxins are re-released the person will get a craving, thought, urge, sometimes can taste or smell the drug or feel the effects of it and they then go and use the drug or alcohol and relapse occurs.”

The newspaper also found links between Scientology doctrine and the Narconon curriculum. For example, Nar­conon materials from 2005 and 2008 use a term called “tone scale,” which is a Scientology teaching related to emotions.  The program also relies on saunas and sweat rituals, which it claims will remove toxins, a ritual Scientologists call “Purification handling.”

Scientology officials insist that Narconon is a secular program, but as far as the IRS is concerned, Scientology is a religion. The group fought for years to be classified as such so it could enjoy the benefits of tax exemption.