A drug rehabilitation centre with links to the Church of Scientology has been fined and forced to remove claims from its website that it could completely cure drug addiction with detox treatments, including sauna visits.
Consumer Affairs Victoria (CAV) investigated the Get Off Drugs Naturally Foundation in East Warburton, east of Melbourne, over its claims that detox programs helped cure patients.
The foundation uses the Narconon Program as its model for rehabilitation.
Narconon is an international organisation based on the teachings of Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard.
The CAV said the incorporated foundation claimed on its website that it had an 80 per cent success rate of drug-addicted patients completely withdrawing from drug use "usually within 30 days".
It also claimed that 70 per cent of its patients remained drug free "for many years".
But the CAV probe found the claims were unsubstantiated, and not scientifically tested.
The foundation also failed to provide evidence that testimonials from patients quoted on the website were genuine.
"The foundation provided 10 copies of statutory declarations (except for four patients) purportedly sworn by family members and friends of the 14 patients," the CAV report said.
"As these statements were not made by the patients themselves, the director of CAV considers the statutory declarations to be scientifically unreliable in the circumstances.
"Accordingly, CAV did not accept these 10 statutory declarations constitute scientific evidence demonstrating consistent success of the Foundation's Detoxification Program."
Victoria's Consumer Affairs Minister, Jane Garrett, said misleading or deceptive claims were unacceptable.
"They were making claims about helping people get off drugs without the use of any medication or other services," she said.
"A lot of it related to using saunas and heat therapy," she said.
The website included the claim that its detox program could "thoroughly remove the physical cravings for drugs and alcohol naturally and even rid the body of other toxins and chemicals".
The company was fined $3,000 and forced to remove the claims.
"This is a real warning to any other organisation out there who is offering services to vulnerable people, to drug addicted people, to people suffering health issues that they'd better be able to back up their claims that they're making because to mislead, particularly vulnerable people, just isn't on," Ms Garrett said.
Ms Garrett said the company had cooperated fully with the investigation.
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