Lawsuit blasts drug treatment at Narconon in South Santa Cruz County

Santa Cruz Sentinel/May 5, 2015

By Stephen Baxter

South County -- A new lawsuit filed against Narconon of Northern California alleges that its drug treatment center near Mount Madonna gave participants a path to joining the Church of Scientology rather than a way out of drug and alcohol abuse.

The class action suit, filed in federal district court in San Francisco, alleges breach of contract, negligent misrepresentation, false advertising and unlawful business practices.

Nathan Burgoon, a California resident, attended the program at Narconon at 262 Gaffey Road near Hecker Pass Road in November 2014. He paid $37,500 for drug rehabilitation, and spent 20 days learning about Scientology and six to eight hours of each day in a hot sauna with limited drinking water, according to the lawsuit. He eventually quit the program and asked for his money back.

“Had Mr. Burgoon been informed that the ‘treatment’ at Narconon of Northern California consisted of the study of Scientology and participation in Scientology rituals, he would not have enrolled in a Narconon program,” wrote his attorney, Michael Ram of the San Francisco-based law firm Ram, Olson, Cereghino and Kopczynski LLP.

Other features of the program included study from eight books “substantially identical to the path of induction into the Scientology religion,” Ram wrote. Participants were told to take up to 5,000 milligrams of niacin — a vitamin sometimes used to treat heart problems — as well as drink 5 tablespoons of vegetable oil daily as part of a New Life Detoxification Program. Plaintiffs’ attorneys say the regimen is identical to a Scientology religious practice called a Purification Rundown, which is described in the L. Ron Hubbard book “Clear Body, Clear Mind.”

Hubbard founded Scientology, and its leaders describe it as “a religion that offers a precise path leading to a complete and certain understanding of one’s true spiritual nature and one’s relationship to self, family, groups, mankind, all life forms, the material universe, the spiritual universe and the supreme being.”

Burgoon is suing to get his $37,500 back. His attorneys believe there are many more plaintiffs who could join the lawsuit. The false advertising allegation stems in part from a Narconon claim that the program has a success rate of more than 70 percent. Narconon has been sued for similar claims in other states, such as Nevada.

Dennis Howell, an attorney who represents Narconon of Northern California, said Tuesday that the rehab program is secular. If there were elements of Scientology in the program, Burgoon and other participants knew about them because they signed an agreement at the start that mentions Hubbard and Scientology, Howell said.

“From all I’ve observed of this program, the people (at Narconon) really are trying to do their best to get people off drugs and alcohol. They’re trying to break this terrible habit of addiction,” Howell said Tuesday.

The suit also names Narconon Western United States, Narconon Fresh Start and the Association for Better Living and Education International, which the plaintiffs’ attorneys say are involved in Narconon of Northern California. Howell contends that they are all separate entities and they only share workbooks. He and other defense attorneys have not yet filed responses to the April 25 original complaint.

The center typically has 40 to 50 participants and a similar number of staff, Howell said. Since Narconon on Gaffey Road opened in the early 1990s, hundreds of people have graduated and stayed sober, Howell said.

Lowell Hurst, the mayor of Watsonville in 2013, also gave the facility’s leaders a proclamation for its high long-term success rate. Santa Cruz County Supervisor Greg Caput also signed a proclamation that year for its “efforts to combat drug and alcohol abuse.”

To see more documents/articles regarding this group/organization/subject click here.

Educational DVDs and Videos