The PURIFICATION RUNDOWN, also known as the PURIF or the HUBBARD
METHOD, is a controversial detoxification program developed by
L. Ron Hubbard and used by the Church of
Scientology as an introductory service. Scientologists consider it
the only effective way to deal with the long-term effects of drug
abuse or toxic exposure. It forms the basis for drug rehabilitation
and detoxification programs operated by church-affiliated groups such
Criminon , Second Chance , and the International
Detoxification Specialists . The program combines
exercise, dietary supplements and long stays in a sauna (up to five
hours a day for five weeks). It is promoted variously as religious or
secular, medical or purely spiritual, depending on context.
Hubbard put forward his ideas about niacin in a book called All About
Radiation . He claimed to have discovered that large doses of vitamins
could both alleviate and prevent radiation sickness . He marketed
this anti-radiation mixture in the form of a tablet, calling it
Dianazene ". Twenty-one thousand such tablets were seized and
destroyed by the
U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 1958.
The 1979 predecessor of the
Purification Rundown was known as the
"Sweat Program" and was similarly designed to remove traces of LSD
which, according to Hubbard, remained for long periods in the body.
The participant had a restricted diet, including large doses of
vitamins and a teaspoon of salt, and spent at least an hour a day
jogging in a rubberised suit. For some, this regimen lasted for
The program was developed for use in Narconon, and was published in
Hubbard's Technical Bulletins of
Scientology as well as
Clear Body, Clear Mind . Two other books describe the
procedure, Purification: An Illustrated Answer To Drugs and Narconon
Detoxification Program: the effective purification program by
L. Ron Hubbard. The term "Purification Rundown" is a trademark of the
Religious Technology Center
Religious Technology Center (the governing body of the Church of
Scientology ), though an RTC spokesman has denied any licensing
arrangement with Narconon.
* 1 Process
* 2 Promotion
* 3 Reception
* 3.1 Theoretical basis
* 3.2 Effectiveness and safety
* 4 Adverse outcomes
* 5 Adoption by public bodies
* 5.1 Second Chance
* 5.2 New York Rescue Workers
Utah Meth Cops Project
* 6 Other endorsements
* 7 References
* 8 External links
* 8.1 Promotional sites
* 8.2 Critical sites
Purification Rundown usually takes several weeks. As well as
spending time in saunas, people are required to do light exercise
including calisthenics , treadmills, and other similar activities.
The program consists of a course of doses of vitamins (niacin in
particular), long periods in a sauna , exercise, and consumption of a
blend of vegetable oils, in the belief that the subject will sweat out
the toxins and replace the oils in the body's fatty tissues with the
Clear Body, Clear Mind recommends that participants
maintain their normal diet throughout the procedure, supplemented with
The program requires its participants to ingest the following at
* A multi-vitamin cocktail, the main ingredient of which is niacin .
Clear Body, Clear Mind recommends initial doses of 100 mg, increasing
to 5,000 mg over the course of the program. This contrasts with the
medically recommended level of about 15 mg: larger doses can have
severe, even potentially fatal side effects. The participant is told
to expect toxic symptoms due to the release of poisons or radiation
from their body fat. Thus the effects of niacin overdose, which
include skin irritation, flushing , dizziness and headache , are
interpreted as a positive effect of the rundown.
* Mineral supplements, including calcium , magnesium , iron , zinc ,
manganese , copper , iodine and potassium .
* Up to half a cupful of pure oils per day.
* "CalMag", a drink which
Clear Body, Clear Mind describes as a
solution of calcium gluconate , magnesium carbonate and vinegar in
water, in such proportions that the mix has twice as much elemental
calcium as magnesium . This is taken up to three times per day.
* Enough liquids to replace the fluids lost in the sauna.
Hubbard specified that each participant must complete a daily report
form, listing the amounts of vitamins, minerals, Cal-Mag and other
fluids taken, which is reviewed to make sure they are complying with
every aspect of the program.
The cost of the program was reported as about US$ 2,000 in 1990
$1,790 "with discounts" in 1996 (though another 1996 source claims
around $4,000 for a four-week programme), $1,200 in 1998 and $5,200
Clear Body, Clear Mind contains a disclaimer which states that the
program is not a medical treatment. A similar disclaimer appears in
the Hubbard Communication Office Bulletins, noting that the treatment
is not a medical process but a purely spiritual activity. Hubbard
recommends that the participant should sign a waiver noting that the
program is not medical treatment.
Purification Rundown is promoted as having physical and mental
benefits such as lowering cholesterol , relieving pain, and improving
memory. Scientology's promotional materials claim it can boost IQ by
up to 15 points. Scientologists are strongly encouraged to take part
in the program as a necessary step in their spiritual progress.
Scientology promotes the Rundown to the public as a detoxification
program, while it also works with non-religious but
Scientology-affiliated groups such as
Narconon to offer this program
as a treatment for addiction and high levels of stress . Conditions
that are said by Scientologists to respond to the program include
AIDS , heart problems , kidney failure , liver disease and
In a January 1980 announcement, Hubbard told his followers that a
nuclear war was an imminent threat and that the Rundown would enable
them to deal with heavy fallout . He warned that those who completed
the program would stand better chances of survival.
Church of Scientology unsuccessfully tried to have the Nobel
Peace Prize awarded to Hubbard for his invention of the program.
In California, two organizations have been set up by Scientologists
to try to give scientific legitimacy to the program. These were the
Foundation for Advancements in Science and Education and the HealthMed
Clinic . The Executive Director of the
Church of Scientology was
involved in creating the Foundation and later described it as a "front
group". The Foundation funded research and published articles by
Scientologists hailing the effectiveness of Hubbard's procedures.
HealthMed, an ostensibly independent organization, used this material
to promote the Rundown to public agencies all over the state. Both
bodies were strongly criticized by a group of physicians from the
California Department of Health Services.
The Rundown, as delivered by HealthMed, is heavily promoted in the
book Diet for a Poisoned Planet by journalist
David Steinman , who
denies any connection with the Church of Scientology. The book was
the subject of a paper from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration
which accused Steinman of distorting facts.
C. Everett Koop , the
Surgeon General of the United States
Surgeon General of the United States , also criticized the
book, recommending that the public stay away from Hubbard's
The theory behind the
Purification Rundown is that toxins, drugs, and
radioactive particles are stored in body fat, which are released
through the exchange of fats (thus the oil consumption) and exercise,
and then finally released via perspiration and other normal mechanisms
such as body waste. Independent scientific evaluations report that
the concentration of toxins or drugs in the sweat is negligible, as
they are primarily removed from the body through the liver, the
kidneys and the lungs. The notion that toxins from fatty tissue can
be sweated out is categorically denied by toxicology experts.
Evidence offered for the Rundown has not demonstrated that
detoxification is actually taking place.
A 1995 review at a medical conference described the massive doses of
niacin as inappropriate, especially since they cause the release of
histamine , which is counterproductive when dealing with chemical
sensitivity. Psychologist Herman Staudenmayer describes the program
as part of a trend for diagnosing and treating a Multiple Chemical
Sensitivity disorder which does not correspond to any known disease
and is likely to be psychophysiological . He adds, "The position
statements of medical societies are unambiguous about the lack of
scientific evidence for these practices."
In January 2005, a group of five doctors and nine health education
experts acting on behalf of the California Department of Education
issued a report examining
Narconon and its materials. The report
described the key assumptions of the program as unscientific and
inaccurate. Three experts consulted by
The Buffalo News criticised
the weak evidence and dubious assumptions behind the program.
David Root, a medical doctor affiliated with Narconon, has
administered the program for twenty years and stands by the theory
behind it. A non-Scientologist, he denies that the program collects
money or new members for Scientology.
EFFECTIVENESS AND SAFETY
An investigation by the
New York Press
New York Press asked a number of independent
doctors about the evidence for the Purification Rundown. None of them
endorsed the program's effectiveness and some explicitly described it
as dangerous. Several said that no peer-reviewed research on the
rundown had been published in any medical journal. Some apparently
supportive studies have been published, but these lack control groups
and have other scientific failings.
Newkirk Herald Journal editor Robert W. Lobsinger solicited a number
of medical experts' opinions on the program in 1989. Dr. James Kenney
of the National Council Against Health
Fraud condemned those
administering the "unproven" treatment as guilty of health fraud. He
wrote that " the scientific evidence shows the exact opposite of what
Hubbard's theory predicts", warning that large doses of niacin could
cause liver damage, gout , gastritis , and other serious side-effects.
Dr. David Hogg of Toronto said that the program may be detrimental to
participants' health. Dr. C. Mark Palmer of Ponka City, Oklahoma
rebutted the theory that sweating would clear out drugs, stating that
"No matter how much a patient were made to sweat, it could not
significantly increase his clearing of most drugs."
After reviewing materials published by Narconon, University of
Oklahoma biochemistry professor Bruce Roe described the program as "a
scam" based on "half-truths and pseudo-science." In a 1988 report,
Dr. Ronald E. Gots, a toxicology expert from
Bethesda, Maryland ,
called the regimen "quackery", and noted that "no recognized body of
toxicologists, no department of occupational medicine, nor any
governmental agencies endorse or recommend such treatment." In 1991,
the Board of Mental Health in
Oklahoma refused to certify the program
for use in a
Narconon facility on the grounds of potential danger from
its high vitamin and mineral doses. A report on
Narconon for the
Department of Health in California described the mega-doses of
vitamins as "hazardous" and "in some cases lethal". Prof. Michael
Ryan, a pharmacologist at
University College Dublin , testified in a
2003 court case that the program is scientifically unverified and
Those who market the program insist that it has been proven safe and
effective. The marketing materials present testimonials for the
Rundown's effectiveness. Some doctors who have observed the treatment
have been impressed by the testimonials but asked for evidence that
improvements are caused by the program itself rather than suggestion ,
delusion or the placebo effect . In 2007, psychopharmacology expert
John Brick said of his visit to a Manhattan clinic, "Whether it's from
some mysterious combination of vitamins or just good diet and
exercise, I can't say. But the bottom line is that it helped the
patients I talked to." He emphasized the importance of independently
verifying the validity of the program, conceding that no causal
relationship between the results and the program had been
In a 1999 French court case, five staff members of the Church of
Scientology were convicted of fraud for selling the program and other
Scientology procedures. In Russia, the program has been banned by
officials as a threat to public health.
Paride Ella and Giuseppe Tomba, clients of
Italy, died in 1995 during the vitamin phase of the program, suffering
kidney problems and a heart attack respectively.
In 1996, journalist
Mark Ebner described the case of a woman who had
suffered heatstroke and anemia while on the program.
One day, she was found blue-lipped on the waiting room floor,
hemorrhaging. Instead of taking her blood pressure or calling an
ambulance or even a doctor, they explained away her bleeding as
"restimulation" from radiation she had absorbed from ultrasound
testing she'd had years before.
In 1997, two emergency room doctors reported treating a 45-year-old
man who had participated in the Rundown. Previously healthy, he had
developed tremors while on the program, for which the Church of
Scientology recommended further Purification as treatment. Put back in
the sauna, he developed seizures and was taken to hospital in an
incoherent state. He was diagnosed with severe hyponatremia and
required three days of medical treatment. In a similar case, a woman
Medina, Ohio required hospitalization after losing sleep and
developing hallucinations during the program. In 2004, a former
participant in the UK told reporters that the program had gravely
worsened his physical condition, and that he had been denied medical
A 25-year-old man in
Portland, Oregon died from liver failure after
having participated in the Rundown. His parents sued the Church of
Scientology and the case was settled out of court. Scientology
officials blamed the death on prior medical problems.
ADOPTION BY PUBLIC BODIES
The City Council of
Shreveport, Louisiana approved 20 firefighters to
take the program via HealthMed in the late 1980s. The city's insurers
commissioned an evaluation from toxicologist Dr. Ronald E. Gots, who
dismissed the program as "quackery", saying it "served no rational
medical function." As a consequence, Shreveport ended its support.
In 1994, the
London Borough of Tower Hamlets covered costs for an
alcoholic to go to
Narconon for detoxification, but the council
withdrew funding when the
Church of Scientology connection was
revealed. The woman stayed on, funded by Narconon's trustees.
Second Chance Program
"Second Chance" is a program administering the Purification Rundown
to substance abuse offenders. Its first center was set up in Ensenada,
Mexico in 1995 with a mix of state and private funding. In October
2001, two officials from
Erie County Holding Center in Buffalo, New
York visited the Mexican center at a
Scientology patron's expense.
They were impressed enough to appeal for $700,000 to introduce Second
Chance to their own prison, although lack of funds put the project on
In September 2006 a Second Chance project was set up in
New Mexico. This center took in hundreds of referrals in its first
year but ran into financial trouble. Some judges, unconvinced of its
effectiveness, refused to refer offenders. In October 2008, Curry
County commissioners ended their contract with the project, after an
independent study revealed the center had inflated its success rates.
In the two years prior, the center had received $1.57 million in
federal and state funding. In December 2008, the center was forced to
close down after Mayor
Martin Chavez accused it of "misrepresentation
NEW YORK RESCUE WORKERS DETOXIFICATION PROJECT
Main article: New York Rescue Workers
The New York Rescue Workers
Detoxification Project is an initiative
in New York City, co-founded by celebrity scientologist
Tom Cruise ,
which provides Purification Rundowns for public-sector employees who
were exposed to toxins in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001
attacks . It has administered the program to over 800 rescue workers.
Many participants have claimed positive results, and some local
government figures have supported the project, which was awarded
public funding. However, it has drawn criticism for exposing rescue
workers to the potential dangers of the program, for encouraging them
to give up conventional medical treatments, for recruiting into
Scientology and for channeling funding to Scientology-related bodies.
UTAH METH COPS PROJECT
Inspired by the New York project, a center in
Orem, Utah administers
Purification Rundown to
Salt Lake City
Salt Lake City police who complain of
health effects from exposure to meth lab toxins. The process is
administered under the name of Bio-Cleansing Centers of America and
has received public money in addition to private donations. Many
police who have taken part claim to have benefited, though a medical
doctor associated with the
Utah clinic acknowledged in 2007 that there
were no studies of the program's effect on people who had been exposed
to meth labs.
The major supporter of the clinic has been State Attorney General
Mark Shurtleff . In 2007 and 2008, his office spent $140,000 to pay
for 20 police to take the program, and requested a total of $440,000
Utah State Legislature . The legislature advanced $240,000
of this further funding. In 2009, Republicans in the State
Legislature approved an additional $100,000 for the project in the
closing days of a session, bypassing a committee which would have
reviewed the payment.
Kelly Preston has endorsed the program and
credits it for helping the health of her son Jett.
In a 1998 interview,
Heber Jentzsch , president of the Church of
Scientology International , credited the program with curing radiation
sickness that he allegedly suffered as a result of childhood exposure
to nuclear testing in
Utah . No cases of radiation sickness have ever
been reported in Utah, due to the low level of fallout involved,
although some cases of leukemia may have been associated with the
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