This 30-minute German documentary follows the experience of a recovering drug addict identified as ‘Andy’ with an organisation called Narconon.
To quote the film makers, Narconon provides:
A therapy which is considered useless and harmful by drug experts and specialists […]Narconon is a front organisation of Scientology with the goal to sell communication courses to drug addicts and to enlarge the cult’s wealth, and to gain new members.
Play the film in a video window after the break.
After the introduction, the scene moves to Hamburg Central Station, and a soup kitchen for people with drug dependence problems run by the “The Action Committee – Drug-free Hamburg”. The people who are providing this ‘service’ are Scientologists with a hidden agenda
When they are interviewed, they claim (at 2;58) a “Success rate of more than 70%” for a treatment that lasts only 3 months . There is a priceless moment when one of their clients intervenes to demand: “Are you from Scientology what is Narconon? Is Scientology your sponsor?” They falsely deny any connection.
At 3:32 the scene returns to Andy. He was going to take a medical detox at a state hospital, but instead joined his wife, who planned to attend the Narconon facility because “you can do it quicker”.
It was only when the arrived at the facility that they found out that they had to pay. Andy’s wife was ejected because the ‘registrar’ could not find a relative prepared to pay a daily charge of 120 German marks on her behalf, and health insurance providers do not recognise Narconon. Andy’s father pays for his son, so he can stay – but only after signing that permits Narconon staff to prevent him from leaving by physical force in necessary.
Andy’s ‘cold turkey’ withdrawal is filmed by hidden camera (from 5:05):
There was no medical specialist present. the promised ‘detoxification specialists” are former junkies. Medication is forbidden.
At 5:15 Andy strips his sleeve, and shows a deep scar which resulted from Narconon refusing to provide any treatment (not even a dressing) from a “very deep and open wound” he developed while he was there. He was told that the sauna and vitamin regime he was about to undergo (AKA Scientology’s ‘purification rundown’) would heal it.
At 5:50 one of the Scientologists running the soup kitchen makes the claim that this regime provides “[…] the chance to sweat the drugs out of your body”. A potential client asks if there is any possibility of seizure during the sauna programme (a valid concern -The risk of seizure during withdrawal is carefully controlled during medical detoxes). This serious risk is laughed off.
They also claim that there is “medical supervision”. As we have seen from the hidden camera footage, this is not so. Andy confirms this at 6:47
There are no skilled people, They don’t even know how to care for an unconscious person or someone who vomited. It happens that someone gets unconscious and you scream and run for help and there is no medical supervision, no doctor, no one.
At 7:12 a Scientologist appears to try to prevent the crew filming the outside of the Narconon facility from a public place and find out “what station you are and when you will broadcast”.
At 7:50 they interview a specialist from a hospital who provides case histories of Narconon clients who came under his care. These include someone who was slapped and kicked by Narconon staff, “for therapeutic reasons”.
At 9:40 the programme begins to describe Narconon’s ‘treatment’ – which is shown to be identical to the ‘Training Routines‘ that Scientologists undergo when they join the organisation and describe the curious “communication course”(which famously includes issuing orders to an ashtray( a “bowl” in this case”).
At 11:54 Andy shows the certificates he received for completing these courses – including one that claims that after only four weeks he was “a detoxification specialist. The “detoxification specialists” that the Scientologists claimed to provide earlier are revealed to be ex-clients with unrecognised and worthless Scientology ‘qualifications’. Andy is drawn in to working for Narconon by the approval of the group, and the boost that his new ‘professiona’l status provides to his self-esteem.
At 13:12 he describes what can go wrong – he has to deal with a client who becomes deluded and violent.
The programme reveals that
Because of the dubious therapy methods Narconon workers were repeatedly convicted due to false imprisonment, duress and violation of the Non-medical Practitioners Act.
At 14:15 a lawyer gives his opinion that Narconon is open to charges of “illegally practising medicine”and the money clients relatives paid can be recovered as the contracts they signed were invalid due to “undue enrichment”. At 15:25 we cut back to the Scientologist who confronted the film crew. He is asked
Did you know that you act against the German drug law because you offer a therapy without educated [qualified] therapists?
He avoids the question.
At 15:15 we follow Andy deeper journey deeper into Scientology as far as the state of ‘clear’ during which he was told to either bring his kids into Scientology or separate (disconnect) from them. After a relapse into drug use, he suffered hallucinations and acute mental illness (described from 16:37). The last straw was an incident in which he failed to recognise his own family. He left Narconon and Scientology with a number of other clients.
From 17:40 Andy describes the difficulties he had in putting his Scientology ‘training’ behind him, and re-adjusting to everyday life – difficulties complicated by his on-going addiction problems. His feelings of insecurity, and vulnerability to panic attacks are familiar from accounts of ex-Scientologists.
Andy returned to drug abuse. Narconon ‘professionals’ had, after all assured him that their treatment had “made his body resistant against drugs”, so there was now less risk involved. Unlike many of his peers at Narconon programme, Andy survived because joined a methadone programme.
At 19:20 Andy confronts the people who drew him in to Narconon on camera. All they do is ask for his name, assertively repeat their claims (although Narconon is now only 63% effective – not 70% as they claimed earlier) and deflect the discussion to the funding of drug rehabilitation programmes.
At 20:35 it is revealed that, in 1973, a Narconon facility briefly received state funding. An official whose job it was to provide this funding quickly became suspicious, and formed the opinion that Narconon was only concerned with acquiring money.
At 21:58 one of Narconon’s first German clients is interviewed about her experience. She describes a dirty, violent environment and a visiting drug dealer who was ignored by Narconon management. She reveals how she was sent to a Scientology organisation in Sweden where she worked 12-hour days in the registry (sales) department while the manager of the facility received money from the state for her treatment.
at 23:43 the journalist who broke this story estimates that Scientology made between 1.3 and 1.5 million German Marks from this scam. When the founder of the facility which was making this money for Scientology relapsed (and lost his brother to drugs, despite Narconon ‘treatment’) he considered revealing the truth in court. It is claimed that:
[…] they took him away, locked him in a house and got him enough heroin to control him and so he couldn’t easily testify against Narconon. They also pursued us and followed us everywhere. We were frightened.
At 26:34 Narconon’s real ‘success’ rate is revealed as 10% – 90% of participants returned to drug use after treatment. Many damaged themselves or died during this time for want of the effective treatment they thought they were paying for. State payments to Narconon ceased, and have never been resumed.
At 27:25 we see Andy, with his family embarking on a new life and therapy for his drug problem. . If it was not for Narconon, he might have done this 2 years sooner. We wish him well