From: Chris Owen
Subject: UK MEDIA: Narconon UK President implodes on-air
The following interview was conducted on 20 December 1997 by a local radio station in Guildford, Surrey. The Mayor of the town had earlier withdrawn at the last minute from the opening of a helpline by the Narconon drugs rehabilitation centre, described by the US IRS as a "Scientology-related organisation".
The presenter of the station's morning programme, Johnny Greenwood, subsequently interviewed John Wood, the UK President of Narconon. However, the interview rapidly descended into a farcical slanging match which, if the Mayor was listening, would surely have confirmed that she was right to withdraw her support for Narconon. Although Greenwood repeats the same question no less than eight times, Wood refuses to answer and instead launches into vitriolic attacks against the programme's researcher (!).
The interview can be heard in streaming RealAudio from: http://www.spirant.demon.co.uk/sound/Narconon.ram
And it can be downloaded for offline playing from: http://www.spirant.demon.co.uk/sound/Narconon.ra
My thanks to Sol for the recording and help with the transcription.
For more information about Narconon, see the critical web pages at: http://wpxx02.toxi.uni-wuerzburg.de/~cowen/essays/narconon/narconon.html
---------- Interview, Radio Guildford (?), 20 December 1997
PRESENTER: It was decided not to open a drugs helpline in the town this afternoon. Councillor Linda Strudwick says that when she agreed to officiate the opening of the Narconon drugs helpline, she was unaware of the organisation's links with the Church of Scientology and controversy over its methods. Her office now says it will be doing more research on Narconon before agreeing to having any more official involvement.
In a moment we'll be speaking to John Woods, who is the UK President of Narconon. First, though, our reporter Nicola Downs has been looking at the organisation.
NICOLA DOWNS: Narconon describes itself as a totally drug-free, highly effective programme to rehabilitate drug or alcohol users and put them back in control of their lives. It uses methods devised by L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of the Church of Scientology. The programme was first made available to the public in 1972 but since then its unusual and unconventional methods have caused controversy. "Claire", who has asked to remain anonymous, took part in a Narconon project to give moral support to her boyfriend, who is addicted to heroin. She describes some of the methods used by Narconon to wean him off drugs:
"CLAIRE": I know what Phil went through because I went through the same thing. Some of you were doing the things called "training your TRs", as they're called, where you sit and stare into somebody's eyes and you pass and fail things, and sometimes you're not allowed to blink, and there's another one called "TR Bullbait" where you sit and stare as people sort of hurl abuse at you and try to get you to grin or move. You're not support to react to noises, smacks close to your face and all sorts of things like that - you're not supposed to react.
NICOLA DOWNS: And she says she was surprised by some of the other methods used.
"CLAIRE": They said that some drug usement [sic], even me having been injected in my mouth for my fillings, all of these things get taken into into our body and actually get trapped in the fat cells, and you have to go into this sauna, you go for half an hour's jog, you take lots of vitamins and minerals. You take these, you go out for a jog for half an hour, then you come back and sit in the sauna for four and a half hours. They say that the heat and the vitamins stimulate the things in your body and they come out of you. You expect that you're going to survive it, but when you're with somebody who is so keen to feel like they want their lives back you'll just go through anything. I was absolutely convinced that what they were telling me was true, that they were going to cure him.
NICOLA DOWNS: John Garrows is a Professor of Human Nutrition who's head of the department at St Bart's Medical School in London. We asked him if in his opinion giving drug addicts doses of minerals and vitamins, as is described in Narconon's literature, and experienced by "Claire" and her boyfriend, is effective in detoxifying them.
JOHN GARROWS: On theoretical grounds I don't know why the programme of exercise and drugs and saunas and so forth should be particularly effective, nor do I know of any trials in which they compared their programme with anybody else's programme in a properly controlled manner and starting with the same sort of people at the beginning.
NICOLA DOWNS: And forensic psychiatrist Dr. Elizabeth Tylden says she treated half a dozen people at her London practice suffering from what she sees as the ill-effects of the Narconon programme.
DR TYLDEN: Some of the advice that they were given would be OK, but the programme hasn't been effective in the people who I've known who've tried to use it. I've come across people who've looked extremely ill.
NICOLA DOWNS: One of the criticisms of Narconon which have been aired is that it is not sufficiently upfront about its links with Scientology. "Claire" says that she was positively encouraged by Narconon to go to the Scientology headquarters in East Grinstead for help in getting over her depression about her boyfriend's problem.
"CLAIRE": It wasn't explained to me like that, that they - what happened was that Phil got quite thin and very stressed-out and I was getting very upset because I didn't know what was happening to him. I was told that there was a way that could help me and I kept saying to Sheila, "What is that way that would help me?", I said "Is it Narconon?" "No no no, it's not Narconon, not Narconon but quite similar," and I was sent to a man's house in East Grinstead. He was a member of the Church of Scientology and they have a special way of dealing with things. I was given a freebie of this certain way that they do things.
NICOLA DOWNS: After several weeks on the Narconon programme, Claire's boyfriend went back to taking heroin and is currently in prison. The Narconon rehab clinic he attended is no longer open. In fact Narconon currently has no drug rehab clinics in the UK at all. Those who enrol must travel to Holland.
PRESENTER: Well, that was our reporter, Nicola Downs, reporting there. And John Wood of Narconon joins me now. Good morning, John.
JOHN WOOD: Good morning.
PRESENTER: The first criticism contained in the report there that I've like to ask you about - in your leaflet, which I've got in front of me - "Give them the truth and they'll see the lies" - the word Scientology doesn't appear at all. Why not?
JOHN WOOD: I don't see why it should. I mean, Narconon is an effective drug rehabilitation centre. It is also a tested method of warning children about the dangers of drugs. Now, L. Ron Hubbard wrote many techniques to overcome many of society's ills. There's a whole range of issues - solutions to develop in society - how you - I don't see why every time his name is mentioned all of them should be mentioned next to it.
PRESENTER: Well, just to pick you up on that at the moment, what were Mr. Hubbard's qualifications for this?
JOHN WOOD: Well, he was an expert in I think 29 different fields.
PRESENTER: Well, according to the Board of Mental Health in the State of Oklahoma, and this was written in 1991, they said that they threw out the certification of Narconon purely because he had no professional qualifications and was not really fitted to quote on it.
JOHN WOOD: No. You've got old information there. Your researchers didn't do their job properly. Can I just - Can I just start again? Listen: we are saving people's lives. Narconon is an effective drug rehabilitation centre. Now, what has happened here, right, is that controversy has been created by your researcher on purpose because that's his job. That's how he feels he gets his reward, by creating controversy. He has gone through - on that tape he has gone to people who are know - going to say something untrue about it. How come he hasn't gone to - There are a hundred and forty thousand people in the world who say their lives have been saved thanks to Narconon.
PRESENTER: Where has this research been published?
JOHN WOOD: No, they're all over the world. The testimonials - Sorry, there's no doubt that Narconon is the most effective drug rehabilitation method in the world -
PRESENTER: Where is the published research?
JOHN WOOD: There are plenty of reports that have been conducted -
PRESENTER: Like where, for example?
JOHN WOOD: Well, perhaps - Well, there have been tests done in Sweden, in Spain and various other regions written up in the Journal of Toxicology. But the problem is that your researcher went out of the way to create controversy.
PRESENTER: Well, this is your opportunity to tell -
JOHN WOOD: Absolutely - No, I would rather say I -
(both talk at once)
PRESENTER: You're not telling me where I can go to, an accredited body in *this* country which has scientific approval, to tell me that your Narconon is an effective treatment against drugs.
JOHN WOOD: Well, the effective - the place to go is to meet the people - Why don't your researchers ever contact people who have done the programme? My own - my own friend, my best friend - I was at university with him at this university in the eighties, he was an alcoholic. He says his life was saved. He tells me himself his life was saved by drugs [sic]. He's a Guildford man who was injecting methadone for fourteen years. And he would never be - Narconon -
PRESENTER: I'm not suggesting that nobody's ever benefited from your programme, I'm saying that the fact that we do not seem to have any written evidence from what people would recognise as a properly qualified clinical body in the United Kingdom to give you the full accreditation -
(JOHN WOOD tries to interrupt)
PRESENTER: - to be an accredited anti-narcotics agency. Why not?
JOHN WOOD: It is not a clinical agency. It is not medical. That's the main reason.
PRESENTER: So it's psychological?
JOHN WOOD: No - I mean, when the centre operated in the UK, in Dover, and in Crowborough [near East Grinstead], we are authorised as a registered care home for those who phone in from Social Services to be put into the care home and we received funding from the Social Services programme. And - If we were medical, we would have to be a nursing home, so I'm sorry but it's more than medical treatment. If you like to call it psychological, it basically deals with the reasons someone got involved in drugs in the first place -
PRESENTER: All right -
JOHN WOOD: - and how to overcome it.
PRESENTER: So you're saying that people who deal with drugs are, we know, enormously vulnerable, and especially when you're getting them off it they go through all kinds of psychological dark shadows which are being brought out. Now, you say you're not medical and you're not psychiatric, so what qualifies you to do this?
JOHN WOOD: Well - God! - we've got nothing to do with *psychiatry* - their practices are *dangerous*! They put people on - now listen to this - psychiatrists put people *on* an addictive substance more addictive than the drugs they were taking in the first place. They replace heroin -
PRESENTER: Now I have no medical qualifications so I can't argue with you on that. What I am saying is two things, and you still haven't answered my first question. Why is there no published research by an accredited body in the UK which says that Narconon is a proper agency doing a good job?
JOHN WOOD: Well, there's no such report in the UK, however there are plenty of international ones - The thing is, Narconon is standard throughout the world. It's the same programme - the withdrawal programme, the sauna detoxification, as spoken about in that tape, and methods looking at that person's ethics, honesty - restoring - You see, the real issue here is drugs cause enormous destruction in society. You know, what are we talking about here? It's the parent's greatest fear, that their children would be involved in drugs. Addicts are involved in crime, we're talking about robbery, we're talking about AIDS from needles - we're talking about -
PRESENTER: Nobody's arguing about the drugs menace. What we're talking - It's not the subject we're discussing here. The subject we're discussing here is whether Narconon is an effective treatment for drugs or a front for the Scientology movement.
JOHN WOOD: Oh, please. I mean - There are experts throughout the world - I could supply you - your researcher - never even tried but they went out of their way to find only negative reports -
PRESENTER: Can you give the names of any two agencies in this country that we can telephone and get official accreditation for Narconon?
JOHN WOOD: Well, I don't really know what you mean by "official accreditation".
PRESENTER: Well, I mean, for example the one I quoted - admittedly - from seven or eight years ago which says that certification was refused, this was the one in America - here we are, the Board of Mental Health for the State of Oklahoma - now, you must have, presumably, acceptances from people who are not the Board of Mental Health for the State of Oklahoma.
JOHN WOOD: Oh, yes - now, you see - this is going to be embarrassing for you, I'm afraid - the thing you are putting out there - the Oklahoma Board of Mental Health - What actually happened is that psychiatrists that are controlling that, run that mental health board, refused a licence to Narconon because their own methods are ineffective, they were going to be embarrassed. The vested interests in their methadone treatment and all their -
PRESENTER interrupts, both talk across each other
JOHN WOOD: This is the truth. I'm telling you the truth here -
PRESENTER: That's what they say -
(Both speak together)
JOHN WOOD: - No - Please - Can I - Give me a chance to answer the question. Thank you. Now, this was back in '91 or whatever it is and that was some very up to date information you've got there. Now, what happened after the licence was refused is that an organisation called CARF [Commission for Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities] - it is basically in America a five - If you get accreditation from the organisation CARF, which is a five-star organisation, and we have - it has - The accreditation from that is the best. It is the stamp of approval. After, given all of that, the Mental Health Board looked stupid and they gave a licence because they just -
PRESENTER (interrupting): Are you saying it does now have a licence?
JOHN WOOD: Absolutely. *Absolutely*. It is recognised by CARF and many others in the UK.
PRESENTER: Do you have any documentary evidence of this?
JOHN WOOD: I can get it to you with pleasure. It's in my car, I haven't actually got it any of the things right here - I can give to you in a second.
PRESENTER: I do apologise, you've given me a lot of anecdotal evidence, and that's something which is fine, except that - you must know this as a Scientologist yourself - the Church of Scientology comes in for a fair amount of criticism, and I'm not saying that it deserves it all, I don't know anything about it. (WOOD in background: "Right.") What I am saying is - you must know that whatever you do is going to come into this - shouldn't you be belt-and-braces, copper-bottomed, absolutely solid gold with your research printed material before you go into any of this?
JOHN WOOD: Well, I have a report that Jonathon never asked for, which is called -
JOHN WOOD: - it has all the details there -
PRESENTER: You're accusing our researcher of having it in for you -
JOHN WOOD: Yeah.
PRESENTER: - and yet you're saying you had a report which explains -
JOHN WOOD: Which he never asked for -
PRESENTER: But why didn't you volunteer to give it to him?
JOHN WOOD: What the hell, he's the researcher. He's doing the research behind our backs. I'm sorry, he never asked me. He could have gone to plenty of addicts - He could -
PRESENTER: That's like somebody accused of burglary saying I never gave an alibi because they never asked me for one.
JOHN WOOD: Well, I mean, I gave you the press release, you've got Scientology and all the details - They're all here (rustles paper).
PRESENTER: I'd like to see that.
JOHN WOOD: OK, it's completely there. It's talking about the Jive Aces, promoting the book "Scientology: Fundamentals of Thought". OK. He never called me and said, "Can I be introduced to someone who has done the programme - who's said it's saved my life", but -
PRESENTER: We did. He did ask this agency in London everything he had on you -
JOHN WOOD: Yeah but -
PRESENTER: - and what we've got is basically all your own publications here, plus - there's also another one here, from the Ministry of Public Health of the Russian Federation, refusing certification to Narconon.
JOHN WOOD: Let's update and - You know, he's purposefully gone out of his way to create controversy, which is inexcusable. We're working on this serious drug problem. We're, we're -
(PRESENTER and WOOD talk across each other briefly)
PRESENTER: But if they haven't got all the information that's your fault for not telling them.
JOHN WOOD: OK. Sure, OK. I admit - Sorry, I should have made sure that the agencies that he went to had all the latest information - they haven't. Thank you very much for pointing that out to me. The fact is - Look, locally here we have five percent of eleven-year-olds using cannabis.
PRESENTER: This is not the issue, John. The issue is not drugs. The issue is (a) does Narconon work and (b) is it a front for Scientology? And you haven't answered either of those questions.
JOHN WOOD: Yes, it does work, it's the most effective rehab in the world.
PRESENTER: And is it a front for Scientology?
JOHN WOOD: No - that is - that is irrelevant. Firstly -
PRESENTER: I must take issue with you there. You are dealing with people, in sauna baths for hours at a time, who are at their most vulnerable, their most self-doubting, at their most desperate. You've got the opportunity to - I'm not suggesting that you do this, I'm saying that the opportunity would be there if you were to take it to put any thoughts you wanted into their minds.
JOHN WOOD: Please - listen to this! - What Narconon really does, is take a person who is an addict. I'm talking about a life of crime, I'm talking about overdosing and AIDS and so on. It was - he had no choice. He is a slave to the drugs. He has to rob you, your house, my house, to survive, right? Narconon takes a person like that, restores his life, gives him some honesty, gives him a life back, gives him the ability to work, no longer a burden on the taxpayer. That's fantastic. That is fantastic. That is actually giving a person his life back.
PRESENTER: But once again, you still haven't - When will you be able to present us with hard, black-and-white evidence signed by someone in the Department of Health saying yes, Narconon is a good and effective treatment for drug rehabilitation and it has no strings of any other kind attached to it? When?
JOHN WOOD: In about five minutes. It's in my boot. Do you want to hang on?
PRESENTER: Well, we'll have to leave it there for the moment but, John, if you want to bring it in I'll certainly have a look at it.
JOHN WOOD: Thanks, I will.
PRESENTER: Thank you very much indeed. John Wood, from Narconon - pulling a face - thank you very much.
JOHN WOOD: Thank you.