Narconon, Scientology, and the Battle for Legitimacy

  • Stephen A. Kent University of Alberta Professor of Sociology, and Adjunct Professor in the Interdisciplinay Program in Religious Studies
Keywords: Scientology, Narconon, Legitimation, Legitimacy


This article provides an historical description and analysis of Scientology’s controversial drug treatment program, Narconon. Following scholarship by sociologist Terra Manca on Scientology’s pseudo-medicine, I argue that Scientology initially claimed its program to be part of its religion, but eventually dropped this claim as it attempted to get Narconon programs and teachings established in communities. I show, however, the intimate association between Scientology and Narconon courses, and present some of the evidence that the program lacks scientific validity—especially its Purification Rundown.




Author Biography

Stephen A. Kent, University of Alberta Professor of Sociology, and Adjunct Professor in the Interdisciplinay Program in Religious Studies

Stephen A. Kent is a Professor in the Department of Sociology and Adjunct Professor in the Interdisciplinary Program in Religious Studies at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. He specializes in the study of alternative religions. His recent co-edited book (with Susan Raine) is Scientology in Popular Culture: Influences and Struggles for Legitimacy (Praeger, 2017).


9News. “Scientology Launches New Legal Action Against Rural NSW Residents.” Last
modified March 5, 2015.
Andrus, Alex. Alex Andrus to Brendon M. Moore, 21 July 1976. City of Palo Alto, 1976.
Andrus, Alex. Alex Andrus to Brendon M. Moore, 25 August 1976. City of Palo Alto, 1976.
Ashley, Jeremy. “Marmora Council Rejects Drug Treatment Centre.” Belleville Intelligencer.
December 3, 2002.
Asimov, Nanette. “Narconon Banned From S.F. Schools; Anti-drug Teachings Tied to
Scientology Called Inaccurate.” San Francisco Chronicle. August 25, 2004.
———. “Narconon: Misleading Antidrug Program Back in Public Schools.” San Francisco
Chronicle. May 24, 2014. Misleading-antidrug-program-back-in-5504351.php.
Atack, Jon. A Piece of Blue Sky: Scientology, Dianetics and L. Ron Hubbard Exposed. New
York: Lyle Stuart, 1990.

Auditor. “Actress Talks to House of Representatives About Purification Rundown.” Worldwide.
Berria, Matthew. “Heat Exhaustion and Heatstroke.” In Magill’s Medical Guide (Online
Edition). January 2015. Item: 89093432.

Brenna, Tony, Lesley Abravanel, and Neil Blincow. “Kirstie: ‘I Don’t Want Fat Sex!’” Star.
November 29, 2004.

Brown, Brandon P. “Hyperthermia and Hypothermia.” In Magill’s Medical Guide. 6th ed.
Massachusetts: Salem Press, 2010.

Brown, Daniel. “Hall of Fame Push for John Brodie.” San Jose Mercury News. July 30, 2015.
Burns, John A. John A. Burns to Ronald Reagan, 11 February 1970. In Correspondence with
Governor Ronald Reagan.
Care Quality Commission. “Narconon United Kingdom Inspection Report.” August 16, 2016. https://www.scribd .com/document/327014295/Narconon-United-Kingdom-Inspection-2016.

———. “Narconon United Kingdom Inspection Report.” October 4, 2016. /sites/default.files.new_reports/INS2-2665576373/pdf.
Cawley, Janet. “Bold, Beautiful, and No Bull: Straight Talk from the Never-Boring Kirstie
Alley.” Biography. December 1997.
Chronicle Sporting Green. “Brodie Receives Narconon Check.” January 10, 1974.
Church of Scientology Celebrity Center International. “Celebrity Interview of the Month:
Actress Jenna Elfman.” Celebrity Minor Issue 298 (1996): 8-10.

———. “Celebrity Interview of the Month: Nicki Hopkins.” Celebrity Major Issue 226 (1989):

———. “Celebrity Livewire.” Celebrity Minor Issue 235 (1990): 12-13.

Church of Scientology Celebrity Center. Nicki Hopkins. Celebrity (1981): 8-9.

Church of Scientology of California. What is Scientology? Los Angeles: Church of Scientology,
Church of Scientology Western United States. “Top FSMs.” American Saint Hill Foundation
Field Staff Member Newsletter, 2002.
Citizens Freedom Foundation. “More Taxpayer’s $ to a Cult (or is Michigan Helping
Scientology Pay Their Court Costs?” April 1, 1980.
Cochrane, Kira. “I’m a Man-Loving Feminist.” Guardian. September 17, 2008.
Commission des Droits de la Personne et des Droits de la Jeunesse. Resolution CP-654-28.
“David Edgar Love (Complainant) v. Narconon Trois-Riviéres (Respondent).”
January 16, 2014.

“Crosby, Cathy Lee.” Accessed November 15, 2015.

Crosby, Cathy Lee. “A Time for Change.” Federal Drug Strategy: Prospects For the 1980’s.
Hearing Before The Select Committee on Narcotics Abuse and Control, House of
Representatives, Ninety-Sixth Congress, Second Session. US Government Printing Office
Washington: September 23, 1980.
Cult Observer. “In the Community.” November 1, 1994.

Daily Breeze. “Alley Finds Wonderful Life Without Drugs.” November 28, 1990.

Daulerio, A. J. “Whither the Scientologist Athlete?” Deadspin. June 7, 2009.

Davidson, Jacob. “Stars Who Quit Scientology.” Time. July 11, 2013.
Department of the Treasury-Internal Revenue Service. “Closing Agreement On Final
Determination Covering Specific Matters.” The Wall Street Journal. October 1, 1993.
Drug Free Heroes. “8th Annual Drug-Free Heroes Awards Gala.” Accessed September 13, 2015.
Flint Journal. [Flint, Michigan]. “Foundation Backing ‘Purification’ Headed by 2
Scientologists.” February 6, 1983.
Forgrave, Will. “Lawsuit Claims Albion Rehab Center is a Scientology Front, Latest in Long
List of Lawsuits since 2005.” Last modified November 9, 2015.
The Foundation for Advancements in Science and Education. Information Sheet.
Frank, Bill. “Narconon is a Drug Problem that is Working.” Morning News [Wilmington,
Delaware]. April 11, 1973.

Friends of Narconon International. Accessed September 13, 2015. http://www.friendsofnarconon

———. “Success Stories.” Last modified January 3, 2016.
“The Friends of Narconon.” n.p., n.d. Unpublished stencil.
Gallant, Jacques. “Narconon Rehab Strikes Out in Second Ontario Town.” Toronto Star.
February 9, 2015.

Gerbode, Frank. “To Whom It May Concern.” Accessed November 10, 2015. http://

Giles, David. Illusions of Immortality: A Psychology of Fame and Celebrity. London:
Macmillan Press, 2000.
Goldacre, Ben. “Medical Hypotheses Fails the Aids Test.” The Guardian. September 12, 2009.

Goodban, Stephen. Stephen Goodban to Lorna Levett. 17 February 1972. In Narconon to Lorna

Graham, David. “New Flint Firm: Health Service or Scientology Recruiting Arm?” Flint Journal
[Flint, Michigan]. February 6, 1983.

Gritten, David. “(Personal) Enterprise Has Put Star Trek II’s Kirstie Alley in Orbit.” People. July 26, 1982.

Grobel, Lawrence. “Cheers to Kristie Alley.” TV Guide. April 9, 1994.

Health Canada. “Food and Nutrition: Dietary Reference Intakes-Reference values for Vitamins.”
Last modified November 29, 2010. /table/ref_vitam_tbl-eng.php.

Heger, Jen. “Church of Scientology Paid Lobbyist $590k from 2005-2012.” Radar Online. July
11, 2012.

Hogg, Andi. “Fourth Narconon Closure-Scientology Rehabs Collapsing.” Harris Penn Lowry
(blog). Last modified December 26, 2012.
Hubbard, L. Ron. Clear Body Clear Mind: The Effective Purification Program. Copenhagen:
New Era Publications, 1990.
———. The Communication Course. Copenhagen: Advanced Organization, 1979.
———. “Ethics.” Hubbard Communications Office Policy Letter. June 18, 1968.
———. Modern Management Technology Defined. 1976. Reprint, Copenhagen: New Era
Publications, 1985.
———. Narconon News, 6/3. Special Edition. 1974.

———. “Narconon.” Sea Organization, Flag Bureau Data Letter 220. August 29, 1972.

———. “Project Celebrity.” Ability Minor II. Hubbard Communications Office, 1955.
———. “The Purification Rundown Replaces the Sweat Program.” Hubbard Communications
Office Bulletin. December 4, 1979.

———. Science of Survival: Simplified, Faster, Dianetics Techniques. Wichita, Kansas:
Hubbard Dianetic Foundation, 1951.

———. Scientology: The Fundamentals of Thought, The Basic Book of the Theory & Practice
of Scientology for Beginners. Silver Spring, Maryland: Hubbard Association of
Scientologists International, 1956.
———. “The War.” Executive Directive from L. Ron Hubbard, LRH ED 55 INT. November 29, 1968.
———. The Way to Happiness: A Common Sense Guide to Better Living. Los Angeles: Bridge
Publications, 1989.
———. The Way to Happiness. Los Angeles: Regent House, 1981.
———. (Assisted by CO OTL LA). “Celebrities.” Sea Organization Flag Order 1975R, May 3,
1969, revised June 25, 1988.
———. (Based on the Works of). Narconon Changing Conditions in Life Course. 1991; repr.,
Los Angeles: Association for Better Living and Education International, 2004.
———. (Based on the Works of). Narconon Communications & Perception Course. 1991; repr.,
Los Angeles: Association for Better Living and Education International, 2004.
———. (Based on the Works of). Narconon Personal Values and Integrity Course 6. Los
Angeles: Bridge Publications, 1991.
———. (Based on the Works of). Narconon Personal Values and Integrity Course. 2003; repr.,
Los Angeles: Association for Better Living and Education International, 2004.
———. (Based on the Works of). Narconon Therapeutic TR Course. 1991; repr., Los Angeles:
Association for Better Living and Educational, 2004.
———. (Based on the Works of). Narconon Ups and Downs in Life Course. 1991; repr., Los
Angeles: Association for Better Living and Education International, 2004.
———. (Based on the Works of). Narconon: The Way to Happiness Course. 1991; repr., Los
Angeles: Association for Better Living and Education International, 2004.
———. (Based on the Works of). Overcoming Ups and Downs in Life. Los Angeles: Bridge
Publications, 1988.
———. (Based on the Works of). The Personal Values & Integrity Course. Los Angeles: Bridge
Publications, 1989.

———. (Based on the Works of). The Scientology Handbook. Los Angeles: Bridge Publications,
———. (Based on the Works of). What is Scientology? Los Angeles: Publications Organization
United States, 1978.

———. (Library of). Narconon New Life Detoxification Program. Los Angeles: Association for
Better Living and Education International, 1991; 2004.

———. (Probable author). Memo to Guardian WW, ‘Worldwide’, Intelligence Actions
Covert Intelligence Data Collection, December 2, 1969.

IAS Administrations. “Psychiatry--Global Eradication.” Impact 125 (2010): 17-23.

International Association of Scientologists. “Update: IAS Grant Assists Russian Introduction to Narconon.” Impact Issue 29, 1990, 36-37.

Iwase, Satoshi et al. “Effects of Dry Mist Saunas on Circulatory and Thermoregulatory
Functions in Humans.” Health 5/2 (2013): 267-273.

Jessop, Mark to Alec Andrus. 25 June 1976. Social and Community Services. Palo Alto. 1976.

Jones, Mark. “Declaration of Mark Jones.” Xenu. Last modified February 10, 1995.

Kent, Stephen A. “The Creation of ‘Religious’ Scientology.” Religious Studies and Theology 18, 2 (1999): 97-126.
———. “The Globalization of Scientology: Influence, Control and Opposition in
Transnational Markets.” Religion 29 (1999): 147-169.
———. “Hollywood’s Celebrity Lobbyists and the Clinton Administration’s American Foreign
Policy Toward German Scientology.” Journal of Religion and Popular Culture 1, no. 1
(Spring 2002).

Kent, Stephen A., and Terra A. Manca. “A War Over Mental Health Professionalism:
Scientology Versus Psychiatry.” Mental Health, Religion & Culture 17, no. 1 (2012):
1-23. doi:10.1080 /13674676.2012.737552.

Kenttamies, Anu and Kari Karkola. “Death in Sauna.” Journal of Forensic Science 53, 3 (May
2008): 724-729.

Khatri, Puja. “Celebrity Endorsement: A Strategic Promotion Perspective.” Indian Media Studies
Journal 1, no. 1 (July-December 2006): 25-37.

King, Debbie. “Drug Treatment Centre Linked to Scientology Opens in Heathfield.” Sussex
Courier. September 18, 2015.

Lane, Jodi M., and Stephen A. Kent. “Malignant Narcissism, L. Ron Hubbard, and Scientology’s
Policies of Narcissistic Rage.” Last modified January 30, 2008.
———. “Politiques de Rage et Narcissisme Malin.” Criminologie 41, no. 2 (2008): 117-155.
LeFlore, Jeanne. “Narconon Arrowhead: Five Lawsuits Allege Fraud and Deceit and Other Charges.” McAlester News [Oklahoma]. March 28, 2013. /news/narconon-arrowhead-five-lawsuits-filed-allege-fraud-and-deceit-and/article_ 97c8028e-0636-5ee8-b1eb-bc041cc6d77d.html.

———. “Suits Claim Narconon Arrowhead Drugs-for-Sex Trade.” Associated Press.
March 24, 2013.

Maccabee, Paul Fishman. “The Narconon Sting: Scientology’s Minnesota Drug Scam.” Twin
Cities Reader. October 1-7, 1981.

Manca, Terra. “Alternative Therapy, Dianetics, and Scientology.” Marburg Journal of Religion 15 (2010).

———. “L. Ron Hubbard’s Alternative to the Bomb Shelter: Scientology’s Emergence as a Pseudo-science During the 1950s.” Journal of Religion and Popular Culture 24, 1 (Spring 2012).

McCrindell, David. “Bizarre Brainwashing Cult Cons Top Stars Into Backing Its Drug
Program.” National Enquirer. April 21, 1981.

McNutt, Michael. “State Requests Contempt Citation Against Narconon.” Daily Oklahoman, February 12, 1992. 120292.htm.

McQuaig, Linda. “Father Wishes He’d Ignored Scientologists.” Globe and Mail. April 20, 1976.

Metaphrasis. “Health Protection Bodies Prohibited to Use ‘Narconon’ or Other Techniques by R.
Hubbard.” June 21-27, 1996.

Milton Committee of Adjustment and Consent. “Committee of Adjustment and Consent
Minutes.” Meeting No. 10-2014, October 23, 2014. Documents/CommitteeofAdjustment/minutes2014/min_oct.pdf.

Moore, Brendon M. to Councilperson, 14 April 1976. City of Palo Alto, 1976.

Moore-Bridger, Benedict. “Revealed: How Thousands of London Children Are Exposed to Scientology Group in School.” Evening Standard [United Kingdom]. January 5, 2017.

Morely, Peter, and Roy Wallis. ”Introduction.” In Marginal Medicine: Original Papers on Christian Science, Dianetics, Pentecostal Healing Health-Care Practices in the Deep South, and Other Unorthodox Forms of Medical Treatment, edited by Peter Morely and Roy Wallis (New York: The Free Press, 1976), 9-22.

Narconon. “Celebrity Support for Narconon Drug Prevention.” Accessed July 19, 2015.

———. “Freedom Inside The Walls; Now Expanding to the Outside.” Los Angeles: n.d., 6pp.
———. Narconon Drug Rehabilitation Program. n.p. [early 1970s].

———. The Narconon Rehabilitation Program. Los Angeles: Narconon, 1971.

———. Narconon: The Workable Rehabilitation Program for Drug and Alcohol Abuse. n.p.,

———. Save a Person’s Life. Los Angeles, California: Narconon Los Angeles, 1990.

“Narconon International.” Accessed December 1, 2015.
Narconon International. “John Travolta Benefit for Narconon International.” Narconon International 11, no. 2 (November 2, 1999): 1.

National Academy of Sciences (US): Food and Nutrition Board. “Dietary Reference Intakes (DRI’s): Vitamins.” Accessed January 23, 2017. /hmd/~/media/Files/Activity%20 Files/Nutrition/DRI-Tables/7_%20Nutrients%20 Summary.pdf?la=en.

National Association of Forensic Counselors, Inc. et al. v. Narconon International, et al. Case
No. 14-ev-00187-KEW. United States District Court: Eastern District of Oklahoma, 2014.

National Institutes of Health: Office of Dietary Supplements. “Dietary Supplement Ingredient
Database.” Accessed January 23, 2017.

New York Daily News. “An Air of Intrigue.” July 1, 2004.

North Hollywood High School. Narconon Celebrity Al-Stars vs. Hollywood Pro-Stunt Team.
Hollywood, California. May 19, 1990.

Oates, Bob. “John Brodie: Passer to Preacher.” Los Angeles Times. November 16, 1973.

Orsini, Bette. “Celebrities Testify for Scientology.” St. Petersburg Times. March 20, 1976.

Ortega, Tony. “Class Action Lawsuit Filed Against Scientology Drug Rehabs in California.”
Last modified April 1, 2015.

———. “Narconon Exposed: Scientology’s Flagship Drug Rehab Facility is Struggling, Records
Show.” Last modified April 23, 2014.
exposed -scientologys-flagship-drug-rehab-facility-is-struggling-records-show/.

———. “Scientology Denied: Australia’s Only Narconon Rehab Center Loses Zoning Fight.”
Last modified February 5, 2015.

———. The Unbreakable Miss Lovely: How the Church of Scientology Tried to Destroy
Paulette Cooper. London: Silvertail Books, 2015.

Pilch, W., Z. Szgula, T. Palka, P. Pilch, T. Cison, S. Wiecha and T. Tota. “Comparison of
Physiological Reactions and Physiological Strain in Healthy Men Under Heat Stress in
Dry and Steam Heat Saunas.” Biology of Sport 31, 2 (2014): 145-149.

Press Release. “Albertans Ordered to Cease Harassment.” August 18, 1977.
PRWeb. “Narconon Center Opens on Awe-Inspiring Mountain Peak Atop Majestic Ojai,
California.” Last modified September 14, 2015.
———. “Narconon Latin America takes on Urgent Drug Rehabilitation Needs of 21 Nations.”
Last modified September 13, 2015.

Reitman, Janet. Inside Scientology: The Story of America’s Most Secretive Religion. New York:
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2011.

Richards, Evelyn. “City of Palo Alto Quits Drug Treatment Program.” Palo Alto Times.
December 7, 1976.

R. [L. Ron Hubbard]. “NN Credit.”

Rosenwald, Michael S., and Jacob Bogage. “Frederick Council Rejects Historic Designation for
Trout Run, a Blow for a Scientology-backed Drug Rehab.” Washington Post. June 2,
Schna, David W. (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Washington, D.C.) to Masanori
Kurastsune (Nakamura Gakuen College). 2 May 1988.
Schwartz, John. “Narconon Achieves at least a 70 Percent Success Rate in the Arizona Prison.”
Arizona Republic. December 9, 1972.

Scott, John, and Gordon Marshall. Oxford Dictionary of Sociology. London: Oxford, 2005.

Scott, Vernon. “‘Narconon Saved My Life’-Kirstie Alley.” UPI. May 3, 1990.

Social and Community Services Administration. “Annual Performance Evaluation of the City of
Palo Alto’s Contract with Narconon Palo Alto.” City of Palo Alto, CA. January 1977.

Social Coordination International. “Celebs Star in Drug-Free Hero Campaign.” Inroads 5. 1986,

Solyom, Catherine. “Narconon Centre in Trois Riviéres Ordered to Relocate Its Residents.”
Montreal Gazette. April 17, 2012.
State of Oklahoma. Findings of Fact Regarding the Narconon-Chilocco Application for
Certification. Oklahoma: Board of Mental Health. December 13, 1991.
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. “Behavioral Health Treatment
Services Locator.” SAMHSA. Accessed July 13, 2015.

Sutton, Candace. “Shamed Olympic Swimmer Scott Miller Trains as a Recruiter for Scientology
Rehab Centre Where He Had Controversial Therapy for Drug Addiction.” Mail Online.
March 13, 2014.

Tennant, Forest S., Jane Thomas, Mike Reilly, and Joseph Shannon. Outline For Recovery
House Evaluation, Narconon New Life. California: California Department of State
Health. October 31, 1974.

Thorwaldson, Jay. “Narconon Treats Few, Records Show.” Palo Alto Weekly. November 25,

“Tom Cruise’s Visit to State Spurs Security Alert at Plant.” Oklahoman. October 15, 2001.

The Truth About Scientology. “Scientology Service Completions by Name.” Accessed 2015.

———. “Scientology Service Completions by Name.” Accessed 2015. http://www
University of Maryland Medical Center. “Vitamin B3 (Niacin).” Last modified August 6, 2015.
U.S. House of Representatives. Hearing on Federal Drug Strategy: Prospects For The 1980’s
Before The Select Comm. On Narcotics Abuse and Control H.R. 96th Cong., 2d sess.

Venemon, David. Affidavit of David Venemon. Eastern District of Oklahoma: United States
District Court. August 8, 2014. Par. 9-10.

Washington: US Government Printing Office, September 23, 1980.
Washington Wire. “Tis the Season for a Scientology Party.” December 11, 2006.
Wolf, Lester L. to Members of the Select Committee. “Federal Strategy Hearing—Briefing
Material.” September 22, 1980.

Wright, Lawrence. Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, & the Prison of Belief. New York:
Alfred A. Knopf, 2013.
How to Cite
Kent, S. (2017). Narconon, Scientology, and the Battle for Legitimacy. Marburg Journal of Religion, 19(1).