Critics of a Narconon antidrug program for schools have charged that concepts at the core of the program are doctrinal beliefs of the Church of Scientology and that the medical theories underlying the program are irresponsible "pseudoscience." For years, the Narconon program has been offered free to schools throughout America, conducted by lecturers from the Scientology movement. According to Narconon records, the antidrug sessions reached more than 1.7 million of the nation's students over the period 1995-2004 (Asimov, 2004).Among the program's Scientology concepts are the beliefs that (a) the body stores drugs indefinitely in fat, causing drug cravings and flashbacks, and (b) sweating that is generated by exercise or sauna baths rids the body of those "poisons." Sometimes Narconon speakers tell students that drug residues produce a colored ooze when exiting the body. Thus, critics say, students attending Narconon sessions are introduced to principles and methods of Scientology without realizing it (Azimov, 2004).The Scientology movement, founded in 1954 by science-fiction author L. Ron Hubbard (1911-1986), is a rapidly growing religion that claims to improve the well-being od followere through courses aimed at self-improvement and global serenity. Narconon officials deny any connection between the organization's drug-prevention program and Church of Scientology doctrine. However, members of the nation's drug-education profession often cite such a connection and express skepticism about Narconon's theory and treatment methods. The director of substance abuse programs at the Veterans Administration Medical Center in San Francisco labeled Narconon's principles "pseudoscience, right up there with colonic irrigation." A professor of psychiatry in the Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research at the University of California in San Diego said, "I'm not aware of any data that show that going into a sauna detoxifies you from toxins of any kind" (Azimoz, 2004).Despite such criticisms, teachers and students who have participated in Narconon programs often enthusiastically praise Narconon speakers' spirited presentations. School health officials in San Francisco, where the program had been used with more than 30,000 students since 1991, said they saw no church-state problem with Narconon or with any pseudoscience that might be taught.However, the Rev. Barry Lynn, executive director of Anericans United for the Separation of Church and State, called the connections between Narconon and the Scientology Church "very disturbing." Any time you have a religion which preaches something that shows up in nearly parallel form in public schools, it sounds to me like you have a church-state problem that is real and should be examined by school officials. (Azimov, 2004)Until the Narconon program is successfully challenged in court, it will continue operating in schools thoughout the country.
"Think about it: A kid will say, 'Wow, I'll go to a sauna and exercise, and no one will know if I've been using or not,' " said Lee Saltz, a drug counselor in the district.
Northern CaliforniaAs a member of their local high school's Sober Grad Night Committee, Narconon Vista Bay staff volunteer at the annual graduation night event helping to provide a safe, drug and crime-free environment for the students and their families. Vista Bay also participates with the Santa Cruz Sheriff's Activity League Program for at-risk youth and are members of the Santa Cruz Meth Project along with the Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs, United Way, and the Rotary Club.