Las Vegas -- A mother calls Narconon's $33,000 rehab treatment for her son a fraudulent and dangerous recruitment tool for Scientology, which, though mentioned throughout the 20-page lawsuit, is not named as a defendant.
Cathy Tarr and her son Michael Tarr sued Narconon Fresh Start dba Rainbow Canyon Retreat in Federal Court, alleging fraud, breach of contract and negligence.
Narconon and its dba are the only named defendants, other than Does 1-100 and Roe Corporations I - X. The lengthy complaint, however, names plenty of names.
Cathy Tarr claims she borrowed money to pay $33,000 for Narconon's treatment for her 24-year-old son, "who was struggling with a heroin addiction."
She says she found a 1-800 number on the Internet, and "an 'independent contractor' referred Cathy to Narconon. Soon after, Cathy received a call from Fresh Start Intake Director, John Penn."
The complaint continues: "Mr. Penn represented to Cathy that the Narconon program was so effective because its sauna and vitamin program, the New Life Detoxification Program, makes patients sweat out residual drug toxins in the cells. These residual drug toxins, Penn claimed, are a large part of what cause drug cravings.
"Penn represented that the New Life Detoxification Program had been scientifically and medically proven as effective.
"Penn further represented: (1) Narconon would provide extensive drug and counseling for Michael; (2) that Narconon would safely detox Michael off of heroin; and (3) that Narconon staff are properly trained to care for and treat persons with heroin addiction.
"Mr. Penn also provided Cathy pamphlets about the Narconon program that represent that the Narconon program as secular and as having a 76 percent success rate. The pamphlet is attached hereto as Exhibit A.
"The pamphlet describes the founding of the Narconon program as follows: 'The very first Narconon (meaning "no drugs") program was founded in 1966 by William Benitez, after being inspired by the practical betterment philosophy of author and humanitarian L. Ron Hubbard in the book, 'The Fundamentals of Thought.'
"To hide Narconon's origin in Scientology, Narconon misrepresented the title of the L. Ron Hubbard book that inspired its creation. The actual title of the L. Ron Hubbard Book is 'Scientology: The Fundamentals of Thought, The Basic Book of the Theory and Practice of Scientology for Beginners,' (hereafter 'Scientology: Fundamentals of Thought')."
Tarr claims that Penn told her she had to pay the $33,000 up front, and "urged her to admit her son immediately into 'Fresh Start' for treatment because if she did not, Michael would wind up dead.""
Tarr says she borrowed the money from her retirement savings plan and sent him to the Narconon facility near Caliente, Nev.
For the first eight days, Michael spent time in Narconon's "Treehouse facility" going through detox for his heroin addiction. For this, the Tarrs claim, "There were no medical professionals in the Treehouse, but only Narconon interns and staff who do not have medical training."
After this "detox," he entered Narconon's two other "components: (1) course materials consisting of eight books by L. Ron Hubbard and (2) a sauna and vitamin program known as the 'New Detoxification Program."
The Tarrs add: "Narconon courses are self-taught by the patients and overseen by counselors. Narconon students and Scientology practitioners perform these TRs [Training Routines] in pairs known as twins. The counselors have little to no training beyond the training they received from Narconon and/or the Church of Scientology."
The program included 6-hour saunas and massive doses of niacin, the Tarrs say.
According to the lawsuit, the rehab program is difficult to distinguish, if it can be distinguished at all, from indoctrination into Scientology.
The complaint states: "Narconon's 'New Life Detoxification' program is identical to the Scientology ritual known as 'Purification Rundown,' or the 'Purif.' The Purification Rundown is a required component of Scientology training and is part of Scientology's 'Bridge to Total Freedom.' The Bridge to Total Freedom is the path a practicing Scientologist moves up to attain the state of 'Clear.' Attaining the state of Clear is often regarded as the highest goal for a Scientologist.
"Narconon's rationale for the sauna program is that residue of many different types of drug remain [in] the body's fatty tissue long after use. The drug residue is released from the fatty tissue from time to time into the bloodstream causing the individual to crave the drug, and, ultimately, relapse. Narconon and Scientology assert that the sauna program flushes these residual drug toxins out of the addict's system thereby reducing the cravings the residue causes.
"Under the New Life Detoxification program, students first exercise vigorously before entering the sauna each day. On entering the sauna, Narconon requires each student to ingest increasing doses of Niacin and a 'vitamin bomb.' Narconon increased Michael's dosages of Niacin up to 5,000 mg/day - well beyond the recommended daily allowance. [In fact, about 300 times the recommended daily dose.]
"Narconon requires students to spend six hours per day for five weeks in a sauna at temperatures between 160 and 180 degrees Fahrenheit.
"There are no medical personnel overseeing Narconon students undergoing the sauna program. There is only a "sauna supervisor" who sits outside the sauna while the students are inside. The sauna supervisor does not have any special training to deal with medical issues, but serves primarily to police the students for compliance with the sauna regimen."
The Tarrs claims Michael received no education about substance abuse but only about Scientology.
Michael stayed on as an unpaid intern at Narconon for a month after completing the program. But when he came home, he started using drugs again, overdosed and nearly died within two weeks and is now in another drug treatment program, according to the complaint.
The Tarrs want their $33,000 back, punitive damages and attorney's fees.
They are represented by Ryan A. Hamilton in Las Vegas.
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