Anti-drugs charity linked to Scientology gives talks to thousands of children in Cornwall
AN ANTI-DRUGS group which bases its programmes on the beliefs and "findings" of the founder of Scientology gave talks to thousands of children in Cornwall, the West Briton can reveal.
Scientologist Peter Dwan, representing drugs charity Narconon, gave anti-drugs presentations to more than 30 schools in the county and is planning more.
But other drugs charities have criticised the methods used by Narconon, and one awareness charity warned schools against involvement with its programmes.
A spokesman from Addaction said: "We would warn any schools against receiving any kind of drug education from Narconon. Many of their practices are without any kind of scientific evidence. Instead, we would urge schools to seek out programmes that are based in fact."
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But a spokesman for Narconon said: "Contrary to your suggestion, our drug education literature and talks have been endorsed by many authorities around the world and have proven highly effective. We have saved tens of thousands of lives through our drug education and rehabilitation work.
"Any person undertaking the rehabilitation programme is individually authorised by a medical doctor who is familiar with all the programme entails. The same applies for any prescription of vitamins and other food supplements. Our programme has often succeeded where others (often drug-based) have failed.
"It is inevitable that vested interests will do everything they can to protect their golden goose and seek to attack or discredit charitable not-for-profit movements like ours who are doing something to bring about a drug-free future for our country.
"We simply get on with the job of saving lives."
Details of Mr Dwan's visits came to light in an online newsletter from Narconon UK seen by the West Briton.
One school said Mr Dwan's presentation was purely about drugs awareness.
The newsletter said Mr Dwan carried out 14 talks to 12 schools in October and a further 19 talks to 21 schools later. He said he gave talks to more than 3,500 people in total.
The newsletter stated: "The schools given Peter's presentations have been promoting Peter and Narconon to other schools and now a third tour is planned for early May.
"Every school visited loved the Truth About Drugs talk and has asked if Peter will be available to come every year."
Mr Dwan spoke about his conversion to Scientology on a Channel 4 programme a year ago.
Scientology was established in the early Fifties in the US by L Ron Hubbard.
The Narconon website states that it is a separate organisation from the Church of Scientology, but adds: "The Narconon programme is based on the secular social research and discoveries of Mr Hubbard."
The Scientology website carries a link to Narconon and refers to it as "the drug rehabilitation and prevention program founded in 1966 and based on the discoveries of L Ron Hubbard".
A spokesman for Scientology said: "Narconon is a secular drug education and rehabilitation charity. The people who deliver lectures and work in its rehabilitation centres have different religious backgrounds. This is not relevant.
"The important thing is the success of the work in dissuading young people from experimenting with drugs, and helping addicts to get off drugs."
The Roseland Community College, Tregony, is the only school named in the newsletter out of 33 schools visited by Mr Dwan. Cornwall has 32 secondary schools.
Roseland Community College, an academy, refused to answer questions from the West Briton about whether it had been aware of the connection between Narconon and Scientology and if parents had been informed of the talk.
It released a statement through Cornwall Council which said: "The talk, which was also supervised by a number of members of staff from The Roseland, focused solely on drugs awareness and did not include any reference to Scientology or any other related issues."
Cornwall Council said the talks were arranged by individual schools. The council would not comment on whether it was aware of Narconon or if it had any concerns regarding Narconon's involvement with schools in Cornwall.
Richard Lander School and Camborne Science and International Academy said they did not host talks by Mr Dwan. Penair School, Helston Community Colege, Pool Academy, Redruth School and St Michael's Catholic Secondary School in Camborne did not respond to the inquiry.