A Unique Approach to the Problem
The News, Niantic, Connecticut
March 8, 1977
by Meg Noyes
"Drugs are very acceptable in our society," states director of Narconon, located at 253 State Street on Captains' Walk in New London. "I'm not talking about the illegal drugs, either. Just look at the commercials on TV — there are drugs to take care of headaches, upset stomachs, insomnia, drowsiness, overweight, underweight, just about everything you can think of. We're not against drugs entirely, since sometimes drugs are necessary. What we're against is drugs for the sake of drugs, the taking of drugs to avoid confronting life's problems, to avoid responsibility for one's life."
Narconon is part of a national group and has existed in New London since 1972. Funded by the city, it treats New London residents free of charge and out-of-town Southeastern Connecticut residents for a fee based on what an individual can afford. Narconon, however, will never turn someone away simply because he or she doesn't have the money.
How serious is the drug problem today? "We conducted a survey in New London High School in 1971. When we repeated the survey in 1973, drug use had tripled. We expect that a 1976 survey would reveal that drug use has at least doubled, and possibly tripled, again. Drugs are now in the elementary schools. We get 17-year-old kids in here who began smoking pot (marijuana) when they were 11. It's more available now, easier to get."
Narconon has a unique approach to the drug problem which seems to work on the majority of the many people who seek help. They range, from 15 to 50 years old, and are male, female, black, white, rich, poor, and everything in between.
All the Narconon staff are trained in specific Narconon techniques, procedures, and methodology. "We prefer not to add to or alter the system since it works so well this way," the Director explains. "You see, there are several techniques for getting people off addictive drugs such as heroin. There is the Methadone program, to which we are opposed, since it is just another drug. It is easy to get addicted to Methadone and difficult to get off it."
"The second form of withdrawal is the 'cold turkey' method. In other words, a complete and abrupt halt to drug use. It is extremely painful, a very traumatic experience for the individual."
Narconon's program, the alternative solution, is relatively painless. "We use megavitamins, minerals and a nutritional program to help keep the physical pain away. Drugs tend to strip the body of essential nutrients and restoring these proves very helpful."
The Narconon staff is particularly well-equipped to deal with a wide variety of drug abuse cases, since 5 of the 7 staff members, all of whom are under 26, classify themselves as "ex-druggies." "It really helps when you can tell people 'I know what it's like', you can deal with the problem better because of your own experience," states the director.
Heroin addicts, however, are a minority among the people who seek Narconon's help. "Heroin addicts come in waves," we were told. "I guess it depends upon the supply. We're getting mostly alcoholics and people who are using other addictive drugs—uppers, downers, and poly-drugs."
The person in charge of the technical aspects of the rehabilitation at Narconon arrived in time to give us a quick run-down on the various phases of the program. "After withdrawal, we present the basic course, which consists of giving the person the tools to help him or her survive in society more effectively, to place the person more in control, and to promote better social relations. It includes drills on specific skills, and we send the person out to try to apply some of the concepts," he explained.
"The second step is a short study course, designed to teach the person to grasp and retain what he studies. Phase three is a course in objectives, which deals with getting the person more in control of his own attention and life, teaching him an awareness of things around him and his ability to affect them. We stress applying what you learn here in real life."
"A person may leave at the end of any phase, if he or she feels in total control of the situation," he says, "but we prefer to have people complete the program. We don't like to see repeaters use us as a crutch either."
Clearly, Narconon's stress is upon the social aspects of drug use, the fact that drug abuse causes a person to become an effect, rather than a cause, in society.
The problem of drugs in our schools is unsettling, to say the least. "Schools are just beginning to realize that half the student body is stoned all the time. Although use of hard drugs, such as heroin, is still rather limited in the schools, other stuff is more available than ever. Kids who smoke grass (marijuana) tend to sell the stuff because they can buy a $50 ounce of good grass, roll joints and sell them for 50 cents apiece, make a profit, and still have enough left over for their own use."
Why are drugs on the increase within schools? "Well, drug education in school is often not very successful," comments the director. "As often as not, it merely arouses interest. Kids in high school know more about drugs than I do, and I've been in this business for five years. Their understanding of a given drug is often better than that of the doctor who prescribes it—they know what it does to you, how it makes you feel."
The Narconon staff seems to regard the use of marijuana as a relatively minor program, compared with some of the other drugs around. A popular theory is that the use of marijuana leads almost certainly to other, harder drugs, but the Narconon director calls this a "gross generality. I admit that it does happen," he answers, "but usually it happens because the person adventurous enough to experiment with marijuana in the first place is also willing to experiment with other things. It's definitely not a truth for everyone."
While we usually rely on our home ground—East Lyme and Waterford—for feature material, we feel that it is important to inform our readers of services available in surrounding areas. Narconon is such a service. It is completely confidential, and we hope that anyone who needs to will take advantage of its sympathetic and successful approach to drugs, alcohol, and the crimes that are so often a result of the abuse of either.