Scientology rehab centre has no basis in science, says department
Planned Narconon drug treatment unlikely to meet HSE criteria for addiction services
The abandoned national school in Ballivor, Co Meath. The Narconon Trust, which is linked to the Church of Scientology, is looking to develop the building into a drug rehabilitation centre. Photograph: Seamus Farrelly
The Narconon drug treatment programme, which is to be offered by a Scientology-linked rehabilitation centre in Co Meath, does not meet HSE criteria for addiction services, the Department of Health has said.
The Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa) and the Department of Health both expressed concerns this week around the opening of a treatment centre where patients spend hours in a sauna while taking huge doses of vitamins. The department said the treatment programme has “limited or no basis” in the science of human physiology and brain functioning.
However, with no legislation currently in place to regulate private addiction treatment services, the Narconon centre, which is linked to the Church of Scientology, will be free to operate in Ireland without permission from the Department of Health or the HSE.
A statement from the department said the Narconon drug treatment programme “comprises a series of interventions with limited or no basis in a scientific understanding of human physiology and brain functioning” and there was no evidence it would meet with any criteria set out by the HSE for agencies providing addiction services.
It added the department had no jurisdiction over agencies providing private addiction treatment and current legislation could not stop such a centre from opening.
A spokeswoman for Hiqa said under current legislation, the authority did not have the power to monitor the services of a private healthcare provider. However, it added that the department was currently preparing legislation which would allow Hiqa to regulate such services in the future.
Fine Gael TD Kate O’Connell is planning to publish a Bill next month which would make it a criminal offence to advertise or offer treatments that had not been proven effective by medical trial.
Meanwhile, Meath County Council has confirmed it was contacted in 2016 by the Narconon Trust, which was looking to develop an abandoned national school into a drug rehabilitation centre.
The council previously said there was no correspondence with the Narconon Trust but on Monday revealed the group had been in touch regarding the 56-bed development in the village of Ballivor.
It added that the trust would not require planning permission to turn the building into a rehab centre. It said there was no record of any contact by the Church of Scientology and added that an Bord Pleanála would have the final say on planning permission.
Scientology’s spokeswoman in Dublin has repeatedly denied any knowledge of the facility and insists Narconon is separate to the church. However, land registry documents for Co Meath name the owner of the Ballivor site as Ryan Alabaster, who is connected with the Church. Mr Alabaster is represented by the law firm Noel Smyth & Partners which also represents the Irish branch of the Church of Scientology.
A further request for comment from the Church of Scientology regarding communication between Meath County Council and the Narconon Trust went unanswered.
On its Irish website, the Church of Scientology describes Narconon as “a highly effective drug-free withdrawal, detoxification and rehabilitation programme which utilises techniques developed by L Ron Hubbard” (the founder of Scientology). Its methods are advertised on scientology.ie as “procedures to alleviate the mental and physical anguish connected with drugs” through a rehabilitation process which eliminates all drug residues from the body.