Ex-Scientologists in Ireland warn of risks of controversial Narconon detox programme

A man who spent three years in the grips of the cult warned that if the rehab facility in Meath goes ahead it could have fatal consequences

Irish Mirror/January 21, 2018

By Sylvia Pownall

Ex Scientologists in Ireland with first-hand experience of the Narconon detox programme have warned of the risks of the controversial treatment.

They urged caution as locals in Ballivor vow to continue their fight against plans for a 56-bed centre run by the Narconon Trust in the Co Meath village.

The organisation, which has close links to Scientology, promotes the theories of its sci-fi writer founder L Ron Hubbard including the ‘Purification Rundown’ to rid the body of toxins.

The controversial procedure involves ingesting a high-dose cocktail of vitamins before cooking in a sauna for up to five hours and has been outlawed in the US state of Oklahoma.

Offaly-based embalmer John McGhee, who spent three years in the grips of the cult, warned that if the rehab facility in Meath goes ahead it could have fatal consequences.

He told the Irish Mirror: “This centre will be a recruitment tool for Scientology, nothing else. It offers no cure for anything.

“They prey on the vulnerable and there is no medical basis for this treatment.

“It’s their fix all for everything - autism, low IQ, you name it - but it can cause permanent damage or prove fatal.

“If it’s offered to a drug addict whose liver or immune system is compromised they could end up with permanent organ damage. It can even result in death.”

A letter to council planners from Narcanon Trust, seen by this newspaper, outlines the treatment residents would receive during their three-month stay at the centre.

It states withdrawal is done without any drugs “but intake of vitamins and minerals which tend to alleviate withdrawal symptoms.

“The next phase consists of going into a sauna daily for 2-3 weeks or more and sweating out of the body all of the drug residues still in the body.”

Earlier this week the Department of Health said the treatment programme has “limited or no basis” in the science of human physiology and brain functioning.

John, 38, joined Scientology in 2006 and had drained his bank account to the tune of e10,500 before he left the organisation three years later.

He was taken in by the promise of working through a series of steps to enlightenment known as the ‘Bridge to Total Freedom’ which included the ‘Purif’ process.

He said: “They sold it to me for e1,700 and said it was to rid my body of toxins.

“You take huge doses of Niacin and when you start glowing red in the sauna they tell you that is the radiation coming out of your body.”

John eventually left after witnessing another Scientologist suffer a mental breakdown during an intense and punishing ‘survival’ auditing programme.

In 2012 Narconon lost its licence to operate in the US state of Oklahoma following an investigation into several deaths at its flagship facility there.

The same year a former drug addict sued a Scientology-based detox clinic in California after he jumped off a third-floor balcony claiming he was weaned off prescribed anti-psychotic medication too quickly.

Last year Scientology hit back at claims it could have played a role in the death of Irish makeup artist Cathriona White who was found dead after an apparent drug overdose.

The ex-girlfriend of Dumb and Dumber star Jim Carrey was a Scientologist who was taking an intensive ‘survival rundown’ course.

Ex Scientologist Pete Griffiths from Mayo, who underwent the Purification Rundown in 1987, said: “I was on it for 21 days and had a lot of physical side effects.

“What they’re doing now has not changed one bit from what they were doing 30 years ago.”

On Wednesday 100 Ballivor residents protested outside the site, located metres from a local school and creche, which Narcanon plans to have open by May.

Claire O’Mara, who has three children under the age of six, told the Irish Mirror: “I moved from Dublin to Ballivor three years ago to settle our family here.

“I’ve had parents telling me if this centre goes ahead they are moving their kids to another school.”

Melanie Drake, chairperson of Ballivor Community Council, said residents were disappointed that a nursing home was not going ahead on the site as originally planned.

She said: “We got sold down the river. That would have created jobs and brought other business into the village.

“This won’t enhance the village in any way, shape or form. They are a closed shop and will not engage with us.”

Locals plan more protests and say they will lodge their objections with Meath County Council, which is likely to pass it to An Bord Pleanala.

Fianna Fail Cllr Noel French said: “I’d like to think we can defeat this. We won’t give up.”

The Irish Mirror has contacted the Church of Scientology’s Dublin HQ for comment, but emails on Friday went unanswered at the time of publication.

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