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Addiction specialists criticize detoxification program
Scientologists place a lot of stock in their church's drug-treatment program.
But three local addiction specialists said documentation presented to support the detoxification program created by church founder L. Ron Hubbard is full of unsubstantiated conclusions, faulty assumptions and poor methodology.
"The research design is very weak. They don't even follow basic scientific methodology," said Dr. Paul Updike, medical director for chemical dependency at Sisters Hospital. "There is absolutely no way you can draw a correlation from those studies to say they have any relevance to the treatment of chemical dependency."
Scientology's "Purification Rundown" purports to rid the body of street drugs, environmental toxins and other chemical residues.
In Buffalo, the treatment plan is done in the basement of the church. A similar detoxification plan has been proposed for the Erie County Holding Center.
Clark Carr, president of Scientology-linked Narconon International, sent The Buffalo News "scientific documentation" with "published studies from peer review journals over the last 20 years."
"This is a strongly validated procedure," Carr wrote.
But Updike, the Buffalo expert, said only a couple of articles were based on chemical dependency research. Also casting doubt, he said, was that the lead or secondary authors were the same people and served on Narconon's board of advisers.
Updike questioned Hubbard's claims that colored ooze is produced when drugs leave the body ("That's bizarre - that wouldn't be accepted by most people in the medical community"); that opiates and psychedelics are stored in the body for years ("There is nothing they've presented that proves that at all"); or that niacin pulls drugs from the body's fat ("Niacin has no standard use for the treatment of chemical dependency").
Also asked by The News to examine the materials were Dr. Robert Whitney, clinical director of addiction services at Erie County Medical Center, and Dr. Ronald Santasiero, a medical doctor who practices holistic medicine at Sedonia Holistic Medical Center in Hamburg.
"They make it sound like (the testing) is much more rigorous and evidence-based than it really is," Whitney said of the Hubbard detoxification treatment.
He worried about Hubbard's treatment for withdrawal using vitamin B1.
"That's inaccurate and potentially dangerous," Whitney said.
Santasiero, who said he believed some of Hubbard's ideas had merit, also found the methodology lacking.
"They're basically saying, "This is what we believe, and we don't need any more proof,' " he said.
- Mark Sommer