Originally published in the Sunday World, 01/04/2018
A controversial drug rehab firm linked to Scientology uses high-pressure sales tactics to get addicts to sign up to its £18,000 detox programme
Cult-linked Narconon, who plan to build a €5.6 million rehab centre in a small village in Co Meath, flew two staff members to Dublin within days of being contacted by our undercover reporter, who was posing as a drug-user looking for help.
In a special investigation, the Sunday World found how staff placed huge pressure on the self-confessed ‘addict’ to sign up to their controversial detoxification course.
They even advised our undercover reporter to get into debt using her credit card to pay for the expensive programme.
She was urged to immediately walk away from her job and partner during a meeting at a Dublin cafe.
She received a total of 54 texts and 11 phone calls in just 24 hours as they plied on the pressure for her to leave immediately for a UK facility.
The encounter came after our reporter contacted the organisation asking for help with a fictitious drug problem.
They were so keen to have her admitted they jetted over from England to escort her from Dublin.
She made contact with the facility after filling out an online form on its website.
Almost immediately she received an email from a staff member called Evan Perkins.
Within minutes of replying she received a text via WhatsApp where she was asked her age and her occupation.
Posing as a young marketing professional told him she was struggling with a daily cocaine and painkiller addiction.
Within ten minutes Mr Perkins, a former HR manager with Narconon’s Californian centre, called her.
After questioning her further about her professional and personal life, she was told she was “suitable” for the programme.
He explained how the detoxification process would begin “straight away”.
Due to Narconon not being fully set up in Ireland yet, she was told she would have to travel to the organisation’s UK clinic.
Set on four acres of countryside, the West Sussex mansion is called the ‘New life Detox Centre’.
There she would receive high doses of vitamins to help cleanse the drugs from her system, spend up to five hours a day in a sauna to “sweat” the cocaine from her body and receive mindfulness type therapy.
She would also complete a course on helping her remove “anti-social personalities” from her life.
When the three month detox plan was completed, she would receive career and life guidance a member of Narconon staff, for up to 18 months, she was told.
After expressing concern about telling family, friends and work colleagues about her addiction, she was advised that she could do so, via email if she wished, when she was admitted to the facility.
He also told her that a qualified doctor, connected to the organisation, would construct a sick note stating “whatever she wanted”. She could then post this to her employer.
“We could go down the line of mental health, or stress, if that was OK with you,” Mr Perkins said.
It was only when she asked about the cost of the treatment that she was told it came with an eye-watering £18,000 price tag.
“In any other treatment facility it would be £10,000 to £20,000 a month, but this is £18,000 for the 12 weeks,” he said. “As well as doing all the steps you get assigned someone from Narconon to help with your life and career for up to 18 months after you leave.”
She informed Mr Perkins she could not afford to pay for the treatment up front.
He then told her: “We will work out with you the best way that will work, you can put a down payment of some size and we can work out a way for you to get a loan or (credit) cards or whatever is comfortable for you, and the organisation, to pay it in a way that works.”
Mr Perkins added: “Our first priority is that we want to help you, the end game.
‘And I’ll just tell you frankly what my end game would be. To fly in (to Dublin) on Wednesday and fly (back) with you on Thursday.
“I can have the team on our end start preparing you a letter, if that will help. You should start putting the pieces in place to pretty much come right away.”
Our reporter met Mr Perkins on Wednesday afternoon at a Dublin city centre cafe.
He jetted in alongside another member of Narconon staff, to meet her.
His companion, an American woman, called herself Reggie.
It was during this bizarre meeting that both well dressed colleagues placed a considerable amount of pressure on her to leave the country and receive treatment.
She was also advised against telling her partner that she planned to leave Ireland.
“Once you are there you are going to get some stability, you are going to have some reality and then we can sit with you and go through it, and you can either do it by email or call,” Reggie said.
She then told her: “Don’t you think it would be better if you just called in to work now and said, I’m not feeling very well, I need to go home.
“It would actually be better. There’s so much stress right now, it would be better if you just stayed with us and worked out the finer details and then go back with us back on the plane. That would be the easiest thing.”
When she said she wanted time to think about joining the programme, and asked for some time alone, Reggie told her: “The problem is when you are by yourself then comes in lots of problems and the person then makes wrong decisions at that point.”
During the strange one hour meeting our reporter was also handed two packets of vitamin based capsules, which ingredients included magnesium and niacin – an organic compound heavily used in Scientology’s ‘purification’ programme.She was told to take them to help with the “stress and anxiety” of leaving Ireland to receive treatment.
When questioned whether it would be possible to take anti-depressants to help with her mood during her time at the clinic, she was told that she could not do so.
“Your depression will more or less disappear on the first day….the vitamins lift your mood massively,” Reggie said.
Before leaving the meeting she was again advised on obtaining credit, whilst in Narconon’s care, to pay for the treatment.
Later that afternoon she was bombarded with texts and calls from Mr Perkins.
In one text he said: “Please answer my call. It is not good for u to be in your head”.
She then informed Mr Perkins she had changed her mind about signing up to the programme.
He responded by sending further texts and attempting to contact her by phone.
In total she received 54 texts and 11 missed phone calls in 24 hours after the meeting.
Independent Dublin city councillor Christy Burke, who has helped hundreds of constituents obtain addiction treatment in the drug ravaged north inner city, said he was appalled at Narconon’s methods and claims at treating drug addicts.
He said: “This is not the way those suffering from drug addiction should be receiving treatment.
“Having helped many constituents obtain addiction services, it is clear what this organisation is saying goes against all medical advice, and almost going into dangerous territory.
“It just comes across as a shady cult.”
Speaking to the Sunday World ex-Scientologist John McGhee – who spent three years in the grip of the cult – said he was not surprised by the tactics used by Narconon to recruit vulnerable people to the treatment programme.
The Offaly-based embalmer, who has been campaigning against the Ballivor proposed centre, said he believes the centre will be a “recruitment tool” for Scientology.
“They keep trying to distance themselves from Narconon but there is no distance, it is Scientology by another name,” he said.
“When I was involved I was regularly asked to give donations to Narconon.
“The programme that they put the addicts on, they put me on when I joined, and I’ve never done drugs.
“It’s like a purification rundown and it’s supposed to rid your body of residual toxins to get you on what they call the bridge to total freedom, which costs about €400,000 to complete
“But the first step is exactly the same as what they are trying to get addicts on, where they take the high doses of vitamins and go into the sauna.
“This programme offers no cure for anything. It’s all about money, nothing else. It offers no cure for anything.
“If it’s offered to a drug addict whose liver or immune system is compromised they could end up with permanent organ damage. It can even result in death, as has happened in the past.”
In 2012 three patients at Narconon’s chief facility in Oklahoma died within a nine month period.
The deaths resulted in a police investigation and authorities later revoked the centre’s permit for medical detoxification. Staff were also refused counselling certificates.
However due to a lack of legislation the private facility is free to set up and run in Ireland without being monitored.
It was confirmed last month that Narconon would open a 34 bed facility in the remote Meath village of Ballivor on a proposed nursing home site.
The news came less than two months after 200 people took to the streets against the plans to turn the former national school site into a residential drug treatment centre.
Bosses of the US-born project have since claimed the centre bring will bring in €850,000 per year to the local community, on top of six full-time jobs.
However locals, business owners and politicians have fiercely vented their opposition to the new clinic, and voiced fears it could be a “recruiting ground” for Scientologists.
Last month Narconon officials defended plans for its Ballivor centre in an attempt to allay locals fears.
In an interview with the Meath Chronicle Janet Laveau, of the Church of Scinetology’s National Affairs Office, said: “What we would like to say is that Narconon is really dedicated to addressing the issue of drugs, offering a drug free withdrawal programme that restores people’s lives.
“It’s a safe programme and it is going to bring, I think, a significant benefit to the community both in terms of economic injection in to the area and with very stringent security measure in place so that it is a safe programme and enhances the environment.”
Speaking about the protests against what would be Narconon’s first Irish centre, she added: “I’ve never seen anything like this in my entire life. Never, I’ve been working with Narconon since the early 80s and I’ve never personally experienced anything but complete acceptance because the programme makes so much sense to people.”
Statement from Narconon on Sunday World investigation:
A 2017 study by the Health Research Board, reports the death rate from drug use in Ireland is triple that of other European countries—roughly 71 per million people per year. Studies also show that in Ireland two people die every day from street drugs. There are more Irish people dying of drug abuse than traffic accidents. “Replacement drugs”, originally intended to deal with the problem, are implicated in some of these deaths.
Narconon is a non-profit, non-religious, drug rehabilitation programme aimed at those looking to get off alcohol and drugs and helping them lead better lives. It is open to anyone without regard to religion or belief. Many Irish people have gone through the programme and lead drug free lives today thanks to the programme.
Narconon’s high level of care for the students on the programme and for the surrounding community is reflected in every aspect of its operation. Because the Narconon programme is entirely drug-free – it utilises and tolerates no drugs – students are assured a high level of safety and security, as are local residents.
Narconon’s around the world have put tens of thousands of people successfully through the programme. It has proven to be highly successful. The effectiveness of the Narconon programme and its positive impact on communities have earned broad support of civic and business leaders and government and law enforcement officials worldwide.
Narconon, meaning “no drugs”, is a drug-free residential programme that addresses the debilitating effects of drug and alcohol abuse and has helped tens of thousands internationally to start new lives, free from drugs. The programme consists of three phases; drug-free withdrawal, a detoxification component to help a person feel cleansed of drug residues and life-skills necessary to maintain a drug-free life and restore relationships with family and friends that often have been shattered by drug abuse.
Narconon centres have been saving lives for more than 50 years. The programme has proven results. The safety and effectiveness of its procedures is second to none. There are dozens of Narconon drug rehabilitation centres in 18 countries including the United Kingdom, United States, Mexico, Colombia, Russia, Italy, Egypt, Australia, Taiwan, Nepal and elsewhere.
The Narconon programme was developed from the woks in this area of L. Ron Hubbard, founder of the Scientology religion. Mr Hubbard was a humanitarian whose works include discoveries in the fields of education, morality as well as drug rehabilitation. Wanting to help those thought lost to drug addiction, Mr Hubbard made his research and discoveries in the field of drug abuse broadly available. The result was the establishment of Narconon, a non-profit, drug rehabilitation programme. A person does not become a Scientologist by completing the programme. The programme is open to anyone without regard to religion or belief.
The Church of Scientology and individual Scientologists support Narconon as part of their social mission. Many Narconon facilities exist today because of generous contributions of time and money from Scientologists over the past decades.