Success rates for addiction recovery systems and facilities are hard to find. One reason is there there is no clear definition of success. How many years must one be sober to be a success? Is one relapse enough to consider the process a failure? Making things more difficult is the dispute between advocates of 12-step and non-12-step programs. It’s an emotional debate that is not particularly relevant to Narconon, but here are the statistics provided by Alcoholics Anonymous in their 2008 report “Alcoholics Anonymous Recovery Outcome Rates: Contemporary Myth and Misinterpretation.”
Of those in their first month of AA meetings, 26% will still be attending at the end of that year.
Of those in their fourth month of AA meeting attendance (i.e. have stayed beyond 90-days) 56% will still be attending AA at the end of that year.
The 2004 Survey showed an increase in the length of sobriety over the 2001 Survey (as has every triennial survey since 1983).
As of the 2004 Survey, long-term AA sobriety was so prevalent that the “Greater Than Five Years” range of previous surveys was subdivided into: 5-10 Years (14%) , >10 Years (36%), > 5 Years (50%).
For growth of AA sobriety ranges, the 1983 Survey showed 25% of AA members sober over 5 years and the 2004 Survey showed 50% of AA members sober over 5 years.
For growth of AA sobriety averages, the 1983 Survey found the average AA member sober for 4 years and the 2004 Survey found the average AA member sober for more than 8 years.
In the 2014 book The Sober Truth, Lance Dodes and Zachary Dodes argue that AA has a low success rate.
There is a large body of evidence now looking at AA success rate, and the success rate of AA is between 5 and 10 percent.
Narconon currently claims a very high success rate, much higher than Alcoholics Anonymous, or any other treatment program. From the current Narconon web site:
The Narconon Program has one of the highest success rates in the field of drug rehabilitation, with outside studies showing 75% of the graduates going on to lead stable, ethical, productive drug-free lives.
In a lawsuit filed against Narconon Redwood Cliffs by former patient Terney Knoflick, it was revealed that the Narconon recruiter claimed an 85% success rate.
In Canada, a 2002 report “Special Committee on Non-Medical Use of Drugs: Evidence” quotes Brad Melnychuk, Executive Director of the Association for Better Living and Education (ABLE).
You asked if we’d spoken or met with researchers coming up with this information. I personally have not. I also cannot say whether or not any staff from Narconon across the globe—because we have Narconons all over—have done that. I would tend to question it, based on the fact that our Narconons are improving, and some of them are very close to a 100% success rate.
The site Narconon Exposed examined the studies Narconon uses to justify these claims, and found them all wanting. One of them the is a 1981 study in Sweden is promoted as finding a 78.6% success rate.
In 1981, Peter Gerdman, an independent researcher, examined the long-term effects of the Narconon program for 61 drug abusers who graduated from Narconon Huddinge, a facility outside Stockholm. He followed the graduates for four years after they completed the program.
Although 69 percent had been using drugs for 6 to 10 years prior to coming to the Narconon program, and nearly all were addicted to a multitude of different drugs, four years later 78.6 percent were drug free.
When the actual figures gathered by Gerdman are considered, it is hardly surprising that Narconon has been so reluctant to publish the study. They show that:
61 individuals entered the programme, of whom
24 left during detoxification;
23 left during other stages;
14 completed the programme.
The overall completion rate was thus 23%.
Of the 14 who completed the programme, 13 were contacted a year later (the last could not be reached). When asked if they had used drugs any time during the year after completing the programme, 7 said yes; 4 said no; 2 said they didn’t know.
Seven people who confirmed they were no longer using drugs or alcohol out of 61 is an 11% success rate, not 78.6%.
But the strongest evidence that Narconon’s advertised success rate is made up comes from a leaked email from Claudia Arcabascio, Legal Affairs Director of Narconon International, stating that they do not have scientific evidence to back up their claims.
From: Claudia Arcabascio
Subject: Re: Wolverton BBB complaint and suggested response
Cc: “PRODUCTION NNI” , “John Walser A/ED NN FC”
Date: Monday, January 12, 2009, 4:36 PM
Thanks for sent me this. I don’t have a copy of the letter received from the BBB which makes difficult for me to see if the answer is appropiate.
However, I see the letter okay less than the comment of “hearsay”. It is a generality.
I cannot reach Helena today to review this. Instead, I recommend the following:
1. Correct the letter (more ARC in the letter and change the expression of “hearsay” for specifics and do not say that we have 70% success (we do not have scientific evidence of it).
2. Send a copy of the letter received from BBB to Mike Toth along with the proposed answer (corrected by you).
3. Get okay from the attorney
4. Send the letter (preferably by certified mail return receipt request). Check out this point with Mike Toth first.
If you send to Mike Toth the complete data, it should not take for him more than 10 minutes of his time.
Please let me know if you have any questions.
In short, Narconon’s claim to have a success rate of 75% or higher is fabricated.