Tel Aviv to try Scientology founder's drug rehab program

Haaretz, Israel/January 30, 2006
By Yuval Azoulay

The Tel Aviv municipality will soon be running a drug rehabilitation program developed by Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard. Drug addicts enrolled in the program, called Narconon, spend extended periods in a sauna and receive food supplements and vitamins to increase their perspiration rate and speed up the detoxification of their bodies. The program is being financed by private donors.

Despite City Hall's enthusiasm, the Health Ministry and the Israel Antidrug Authority have not approved the program.

"In my opinion, the Tel Aviv municipality cannot start such a process without the approval of the Health Ministry and the Antidrug Authority," said authority director general Haim Messing last week.

"The patients will receive large doses of vitamins and food supplements while in the sauna to increase the excretion of toxins by the body," explained Messing. "This method has not been checked out in Israel. We are in favor of pilot programs in Israel and will follow it with an evaluation study."

A few months ago three representatives of Tel Aviv City Hall visited the United States and were impressed with the success rate of the program, which Dr. Benny Avrahami, director of the Tel Aviv Municipal Anti-Drug Authority, reported as ranging between 50 and 75 percent.

Avrahami explains that the program will be run twice a year, with 150 participating drug addicts. The patients will be treated at a special rehabilitation center on a residential basis. During their first six weeks at the center, patients will spend 40-60 minutes in a sauna three or four times a day.

Between the sauna sessions, they will participate in physical exercises in a fitness room at the center and will receive food supplements. The second stage of the program, called Criminon, involves studying a curriculum that teaches participants how to cope with various situations.

"We received a donation of $1.5 million in the U.S. to run the program," says Avrahami. "The only condition set by the American donors was that we run this specific program." Avrahami is aware that the man behind the program is the founder of Scientology, but is undeterred.

"There is nothing in the implementation of this program that indicates spiritual goals. There will be no religious messages, not even veiled ones," assures Avrahami.

Criminon, which is part of the Narconon program, has been implemented in Israel's prisons for five years. So far 60 inmates addicted to drugs have been treated through the Criminon program. An Antidrug Authority source noted that in the Prison Services case, approval was given for the program because it did not involve the physical side of the program, only the educational one.

Brigadier General Yossi Beck, the Israel Prison Authority's head of treatment and rehabilitation, highly recommends the program.

"Of the 60 men treated via the program and released from prison, only one is back behind bars for a drug-related offense," says Beck. "The program seems to have a positive effect." Beck also hastens to add that despite the connection between the program and the founder of Scientology, there are no religious or spiritual messages in the program.

"Sure, the program was developed by the founder of Scientology and Scientologists use it, but a professional theory should not be discounted because its propounder is a member of a certain religion," says Beck.

Messing, too, does not link his objection to the program with its relationship to Scientology.

"In all my conversations with various people, I have not found any connection between Scientology and saunas. We are in favor of effective methods for drug rehabilitation, on the condition that programs be adopted only after being properly researched."

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