Scientology-inspired drug rehabilitation clinic under fire over cure claims

Herald Sun, Australia/May 11, 2015

Matt Johnston and Alex White

A drug rehabilitation centre with links to the Church of Scientology has been fined and ordered to remove unsubstantiated claims made online about “curing” patients.

Among claims that led Consumer Affairs Victoria to investigate the Get Off Drugs Naturally Foundation was a graph showing “cocaine metabolites being excreted in the sweat and urine of clients participating in the Detoxification program”.

The foundation’s site in East Warburton is owned by Narconon, an international group inspired by the teachings of Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard.

Counted among its supporters are singer Kate Ceberano, who won the church’s Freedom Medal.

An online testimonial from Ms Ceberano says the detox helps people “overcome their addiction using no drugs but a thorough Sauna Detox and a series of life skills courses”.

But the CAV probe, triggered by complaints to the state’s Health Services Commissioner, found there was a “lack of scientific methodology” in the foundation’s claims. As a result, the foundation will remove claims from its websites, pay a fine of $3000, and publish information about the undertaking.

Patients at the Get Off Drugs clinic pay thousands of dollars for rehab, which includes spending hours daily in a sauna and self-help classes.

National policy manager at the Australian Drug Foundation, Geoff Munro, said people should be cautious about undertaking treatment.

Consumer Affairs Minister Jane Garrett said misleading health claims often made vulnerable people the target.

“It gives people false hope that a complex health issue can be quickly and easily solved,” she said.

Get Off Drugs’ executive ­director Andrew Cunningham said last night the foundation was working with Consumer Affairs to clarify its web content.

“Anyone doing this program must have their healthcare professional’s advice as to their suitability for the program. This has also been a long-standing policy for our facility. We have been organising a scientific, peer-review study here in Australia,” Mr Cunningham said.

“We have assisted hundreds of addicts and their families, over a decade, to become drug free and productive members of society.”

He added that he had ten years experience in the field. Staff included a trained nurse, two naturopaths and paramedic and key staff members had also qualified for a certificate IV in disability for alcohol and other drugs, Mr Cunningham said.

A spokesman for Ms Ceberano said she continued to support the centre.

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