Exclusive: Inside Narconon, CEO Answers Accusations About Deaths In Rehab
EUFAULA, Oklahoma - Narconon Arrowhead has become a frequent name in the headlines. After three recent deaths, multiple agencies are investigating the embattled drug treatment facility and its ties to the Church of Scientology.
It's also facing several lawsuits. For the first time ever, our cameras are allowed inside the facility and we sit down with the man leading the treatment center.
CEO Gary Smith said students learn life skills and integrity to help them with their addiction and life afterward. The walls inside Narconon reveal its ties to Church of Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard. Smith said they get financial support from the Church of Scientology. However Smith said that is as close at the connection goes.
"Not accurate to say it's Scientology because Scientology is a religion," Smith said. "We're not a religion."
Smith said their unique program uses a sauna and vitamins to rid a patient's body of drugs. Then using Hubbard's philosophy, teaches them to reject bad influences once on the outside. The program works, according to Smith, often when other programs don't.
As proof, Smith introduced us to Tina Baker, who graduated from Narconon in 2011.
"The minute I walked into the door, I felt safe," Baker said.
A self-described raging alcoholic, Baker said she's now clean.
"I feel like they saved my life and I couldn't ask for anymore," Baker said.
But some former patients tell the opposite story, of bizarre treatment, where patients are isolated from family, and drug use runs rampant.
Former students said, at times, staff members offer up drugs, sometimes in exchange for sex.
David Edgar Love was a patient and employee of Narconon in Canada.
"It's really amazing, horrible creepy stuff," Love said.
He alleges Narconon Arrowhead is simply a front for the Church of Scientology, raising money by preying on the vulnerable then recruiting them.
"They're teaching you how to be controlled and they're also teaching you how to control others," Love said.
According to Smith, three quarters of the staff are former students. Those that aren't given jobs working with patients are sometimes offered positions recruiting new ones.
Former patient Erica Loftis told us, "They said bonuses could be about $3000 for every person I could pull in."
L.D. Linton called the Narconon number, looking for help for her grandson, Dusty, who was addicted to heroin.
"It sounded like God has just answered my prayers," Linton said.
But the $30,000 price tag was too high.
Linton said the Narconon staff told her, "We can work this out, can you get a second mortgage on your house."
But she and her family were impressed with Narconon's statement of a 70 percent success rate and came up with the money. But now say what Narconon is selling is false hope. Five days after Dusty graduated from Narconon, he overdosed.
Narconon Arrowhead is Narconon's premier facility in the United States. Those who want to shut it down believe if they are successful here, the rest across the country will follow.
Smith, a former addict himself, defended Narconon and its eight step program, saying they are doing good work in the face of the growing monster of addiction.
"We're not here to hurt people, we're here to help people, "Smith said. "None of us, including me, didn't sign up to have people die in the program."
But Robert Murphy is quick to point out people are dying. His daughter Stacey was found dead inside the facility. Murphy blames Narconon.
"From what I've been told, from the information I've been given, I absolutely believe they could have prevented her death," Murphy said.
Murphy recently filed a lawsuit against Narconon Arrowhead, alleging there wasn't enough medical personnel at the facility to help Stacey.