A brief summary and evaluation of the evidence base for Narconon as drug prevention intervention( 12.09.2008 )
This brief report ("hasteoppdrag") was commissioned by the national health
authority, the Norwegian Directorate of Health, with an aim to provide a summary
and evaluation of the evidence base for Narconon as drug prevention intervention.
We searched systematically for any evaluation of Narconon in The Cochrane Library, MEDLINE, EMBASE, PsycINFO, AMED, OpenSiegle, Web of Science, ClinicalTrials.gov, and GreyNet. In addition, we examined reference lists in all identified reports to identify primary studies that we might otherwise have missed.
We identified six studies and included all in our summary. One study was a quasirandomized trial, while the other studies were non-experimental reports. Given the small number of studies and lack of data, no statistical analyses could be computed. Instead, we evaluated the studies and summarized the findings.
Narconon was started by the Church of Scientology in 1966, but we identified no
randomized controlled trials of the effectiveness of this program compared to other
programs. A quasi-experimental study concluded that the Narconon Drug Prevention and Education program was partly effective in preventing drug use among high school students in Oklahoma and Hawaii. This study may be biased because of Narconon's support for, involvement in study execution, and results write up of the research. High-school students in Los Angeles reported a more critical attitude toward drugs following the conclusion of the Narconon education program. The California Department of Education evaluated various printed materials used in Narconon's education modules and concluded that they were inaccurate, misleading, and inconsistent with research-based practice.
A 1975 process evaluation of the Narconon education program provided no information about the effectiveness of the education program. Of the six studies we identified, two studies described the effectiveness of the Narconon Drug Rehab program. A pretest-posttest non-experimental study from Sweden found that one third of the Narconon participants abstained from substance use one year after having enrolled in the program.
However, the findings are unreliable given that only 21 percent of the original program participants provided posttest data and that no comparison group was included. A nonexperimental descriptive evaluation of the Narconon rehabilitation program in Los Angeles concluded that Narconon's claims of cure rate and recovery were unfounded and misleading.
The Narconon Drug Prevention and Education program and the Narconon Drug Rehab program are designed to prevent drug abuse. Collectively, one quasiexperimental and five non-experimental studies document lack of evidence of the preventive effects of these programs. Thus, there is currently no reliable evidence for the effectiveness of Narconon as a primary or secondary drug prevention program. This is partly due to the insufficient research evidence about Narconon and partly due to the non-experimental nature of the few studies that exist.