Scientology lessons in schools

Herald Sun, Melbourne/August 16, 2005
By Liam Houlihan

A drug program run by Scientologists and labelled dangerous by medical authorities is being given free rein at dozens of Melbourne schools.

The controversial Narconon group gave a speech at Melbourne High on Sunday and has made classroom presentations at Melbourne schools including MacRobertson Girls High.

The group -- which does not disclose its Scientology background to schools -- gives students booklets that condemn prescription drugs and equate coffee with heroin.

"All drugs are basically poison . . . Two or three cups (of coffee) stimulate. Ten cups would probably put a person to sleep. A hundred cups of coffee would probably kill him," the Narconon booklet teaches.

Australian Medical Association president Mukesh Haikerwal said he was very concerned about the group's drug rehab centre, which had no medically trained staff, anaesthetists or mental health experts.

The centre, run by a naturopath, treats people as young as 16.

Scientologists oppose all drugs -- including anti-psychotic and anti-cancer drugs -- and regard psychiatry as evil. They believe even legal drugs clog "thetans", or souls.

Dr Haikerwal said Narconon's claims about the success of its program, and descriptions of the effects of drugs, had an unsure scientific basis.

"Addiction to drugs like heroin is so strong that if you do go cold turkey you need to have something for cramps, nausea and pain," Dr Haikerwal said.

"It is quite a hazardous process. People can go quite berserk. You need medical overseeing, and I would have hoped it would occur under some sort of medical supervision."

Narconon denies links with Scientology but its Melbourne spokesman, its president, and its celebrity patron Kate Ceberano are all Scientologists.

And the Narconon program is based on the writings of Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard.

Narconon spokesman Charles Tonna told the audience at Melbourne High the nation's methadone programs were "the cash cow of the pharmaceutical industries". A Narconon member said that more than 40 Victorian primary schools had advertised Sunday's presentation in their newsletters.

Dr Adrian Dunlop, an addiction expert with Turning Point Alcohol and Drug Centre, queried the outcome of the Narconon program.

"What's happening to (Narconon patients) in the longer term? I guess the answer is this is being used to get them to become Scientologists," he said.

But the deputy director of Narconon's rehabilitation centre, Susie Morrisson, denied the claim.

"We're not Scientology here. Just some of the techniques like communication drills are based on the writings of L. Ron Hubbard," she said.

She said the centre helped up to 25 patients beat various addictions in the past year.

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