The California Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs
1700 K Street
Sacramento, CA 95814
January 30, 2002
To Whom it May Concern,
It is with the utmost urgency and importance that I write this letter to bring to your attention grave violations of individual liberty, health standards, medical practice and common decency taking place at what professes itself to be a residential drug and alcohol treatment facility in California and, unfortunately and alarmingly, is a facility licensed by the Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs in California.
The facility and program of which I speak is Narconon Southern California (SC), located at 1810 W. Ocean Front, Newport Beach, Orange County, California.
Operating with State sanction and approval by your Department, Narconon Southern California has long claimed and still claims to be a reputable, successful, valid residential drug and alcohol treatment facility. My personal experience and that of many others with Narconon Southern California, however, points towards the Narconon organization and facility as being anything but what it claims to be.
The Narconon program violates all traditional treatment methodologies and accepted medical and scientific practice in the field of drug and alcohol treatment and rehabilitation. Further, Narconon misleads and takes advantage of its clients and their families so as to pursue an aggressive and hidden agenda of exorbitant fundraising and religious recruitment. My intent behind this letter is to bring to the attention of those who have in their power and under their jurisdiction the ability to commence a thorough and long overdue investigation in to Narconon the legal and ethical violations taking place there and prevent Narconon from continuing to take advantage of the citizens of California who are duped and misled in to placing their hopes for recovery in to this corrupt organization.
I entered the Narconon Southern California facility in late June of 2000 in the hopes that through Narconon I would be able to address my own alcohol addiction. I graduated from the Narconon program exactly two months after enrolling. Armed with Narconon's teachings and approaches to my addiction, I attempted to carry on living a productive and sober life. However, within a month of leaving Narconon I had fallen right back in to a destructive and demoralizing cycle of alcohol abuse and the subsequent consequences. I returned to Narconon in December of 2000 intent on finding out why I had relapsed, recommitting myself to the program and hoping to learn whatever it was I had failed to grasp my first time through the program that would help me stay sober for good. Upon returning to Narconon in December of 2000, I was quickly put to work at the facility and eventually became a contracted, full time employee of the organization. It is with that experience and background that I seek to bring to your attention the alarming practices I witnessed, experienced and participated in while at Narconon.
Violations of Laws and Regulations at Narconon Southern California Firstly I seek to reveal the broad base of legal violations taking place at Narconon. While I was a client and then employee of Narconon, the facility was licensed by your Department to operate a 38-bed adult residential treatment facility. However, in March of 2001 Narconon had enrolled in and living within the facility in excess of 40 clients. In addition to the number of clients that was already in excess of licensed limits, there were at any given time at least 4 and up to 10 staff members living in the same structure. Therefore, a building licensed to hold 38 would actually have up to and over 50 residents, staff and clients included. The facility was overcrowded and Narconon continued to bring in more patients who were poorly supervised and lived in uncomfortable and disturbing conditions as a result of the overcrowding. In an attempt to relieve the crowding problems at the 1810 W. Ocean Front facility, Narconon SC rented out two small apartments located across the street from the main facility on Balboa Blvd. One of the apartments was a small one bedroom, the other a small two bedroom apartment. In to these apartments were placed up to 6 and 10 Narconon patients, respectively. These two apartments had neither been inspected by the proper authorities nor approved for use as residential treatment quarters and facilities. Not only was the overcrowding at Narconon a violation of its own license, but also of county and state heath and fire codes and regulations. Violations of the maximum resident licensing stipulation at Narconon also led to the admittance in March, 2001 of a 17 year old patient.
Narconon SC is not licensed to house or treat juveniles. However, this 17 year old was hidden from state authorities and kept as an "unofficial" client living and receiving treatment at the facility. Narconon also admitted a female client for treatment of an eating disorder â€" a field in which Narconon has no license, jurisdiction, authority or expertise for treatment.
Another area in which laws were violated at Narconon again concerns health codes. With a facility not designed to provide for and house over 40 patients and staff members, kitchen staff would attempt to accommodate the overwhelming numbers by disregarding safe food preparation technique, defrosting meat in whatever space was available. This included in the bathtubs of bathrooms that were simultaneously being used by the residents as restroom facilities.
The area in which I experienced and witnessed the greatest degree of illegality was in Narconon's hiring and employment practices. The information posters printed by the State of California outlining and displaying an employee's legal rights were nowhere to be found. Employees were kept in the dark as to their rights as workers in California. Staff members were required to work a minimum of 72 hours per week for a starting salary of $50 per week. This translates in to an hourly wage of less than $1.45/hour.
Clearly, Narconon's payment methods violate minimum wage laws. Every US worker is entitled to a living wage according to California and US law. By law, barter is not allowed as payment, but Narconon would require staff members to accept food and lodging in place of actual moneys.
Furthermore, there are no medical personnel on staff at the Narconon facility, despite what is advertised on their literature, website, and in how they portray themselves. Staff members are not trained in first aid or addiction recovery medical treatment. Moreover, Narconon clients are transported in the uninsured personal automobiles of staff members. Automobiles owned and operated by Narconon Southern California are driven by non-commercial, uninsured drivers. The cars themselves are not insured for business purposes, if at all, placing staff and clients at risk whenever they travel with Narconon and violating the laws of California.
Deception, Lies and Unethical Conduct Even more disturbing to the addict and alcoholic seeking recovery than Narconon Southern California's legal violations are their patterns of lies, deception and ethical misconduct. Narconon claims to have â€" as evidenced on their website and literature â€" an 80% success rate in rehabilitating addicts and getting them sober. This success rate is unfounded and untrue. It is based on 2 studies that were apparently conducted in Sweden and Spain around two decades ago.
According to Narconon:
A. An independent 1981 Swedish study of 13 Narconon graduates showed that 76% of those that completed the Narconon Program were still drug free two years later.
B. An independent Spanish study of 50 Narconon graduates was conducted in Mar/Apr 1987 by "Tecnicos Asociados de Investigacion y Marketing" (TAIM) for the Ministry of Health and Social Services and showed that 70% of the graduates were drug-free two years later. It was headed by Dr. Esquerdo (105); TAIM, PDAL, 28007, Madrid, Spain. TAIM's telephone number is, according to John Duff of Narconon International, +34 1 273-7400.
However, According to John Duff, Narconon commissioned the first two studies, so it seems to be slightly dishonest to claim that they are the product of "independent" research. It should also be noted that TAIM, the research organization mentioned in the second study, is not at the address given, and not listed in any current Spanish phone directories or commercial directories.
The phone number given by John Duff seems also to be out of use, so TAIM has either ceased trading or moved from the Madrid area.