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Niacin Therapy Involved in Addicts’ Deaths

Families of three clients who died at the Narconon Arrowhead rehab center located in Tulsa County, Oklahoma, have now filed civil lawsuits for wrongful death against the center. According to Randy Ellis writing for the Oklahoman’s online news service, NewsOK, the mother of the third decedent filed suit just one day shy of the anniversary of his death.

Gabriel Graves, age 32, died in his bed at the drug rehab center in Oklahoma in October 2011 following a series of sauna treatments along with administration of high doses of niacin, also known as Vitamin B3. The other two deceased clients were both young women, ages 20 and 21, one from Oklahoma and one from Texas.

The rehab center embraces the philosophy of the Church of Scientology, and its clients are referred to as “students” because they must immerse themselves into the teachings of L. Ron Hubbard during their stay in treatment. According to Anne Schechter writing for NBC’s Rock Center, the clients are required to purify themselves in a sauna up to five hours per day for 30 consecutive days. They are also commonly given up to 5,000 milligrams of niacin per day.

Pros and Cons of Niacin

The theory behind the niacin administration is that toxins from abused substances are stored in the body’s fat cells. Because fat cells can never be completely eliminated, even with a healthy diet and exercise, a high dose of niacin will cause the fat cells to burst, with toxins then eliminated.

Doctors who subscribe to niacin therapy generally advise beginning at the recommended daily dose of 30 milligrams and then building up slowly. According to LiveStrong.com, only in extreme cases and after an appropriate upward titration should a maximum dose of 5,000 milligrams be administered.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) reports that high doses of niacin can indeed cause adverse effects. It has been successfully used and is “likely effective” at a 500 milligram dose for helping to lower cholesterol, when used in conjunction with diet, and for treatment of vitamin B3 deficiency syndrome manifested by diarrhea, skin lesions, mental aberrations, and even death.

Niacin has been deemed “possibly effective” for preventing osteoarthritis, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, cataracts, and hardening of the arteries. There is “insufficient evidence” that niacin administration helps with anything else, although it has been used for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, migraines, dizziness, depression, motion sickness, acne, and alcohol dependence.

However, the NIH concludes that niacin at doses in excess of 3,000 milligrams can result in liver problems, gout, digestive tract ulceration, heart dysrhythmias, blindness, high blood sugar, and even stroke. Considering that people who persistently abuse drugs or alcohol have a higher incidence of abnormal liver function, it seems that niacin would not be a recommended treatment for them.  Although Mr. Graves’ therapeutic regimen is undisclosed, he complained of headaches and vomiting just prior to his death.

Alternative Therapies

Whether Narconon Arrowhead drug rehab center in Oklahoma and its affiliated centers will revise therapies remains to be seen. According to Schechter’s story, Hollywood’s most famous Scientologists—Tom Cruise and John Travolta—stoutly defend Narconon’s treatment modalities because Scientologists “…are the authorities on getting people off drugs.” The Scientologists believe that Narconon’s methods for engaging clients in detox and withdrawal plus a series of Scientology courses are far more effective than traditional 12-step programs.

Yet there’s no doubt that working the 12 steps can lead a person to successful recovery without sweating out drugs in a sauna or inducing fat cells to rupture. Successful therapies involving art and music aid the addict in refocusing on natural skills and improving concentration techniques. Guided imagery teaches people how to relax and visualize a better future. Massage therapy, yoga, and even acupuncture or communing with animals such as dogs or horses can take the recovering addict toward a brighter future.   For more information read about complementary therapies at www.VistaTaos.com or call 1.800.245.8267.

Ellis, Randy, for NewsOK. Third Lawsuit Filed in Narconon Arrowhead Deaths in Oklahoma, http://newsok.com/third-lawsuit-filed-in-narconon-arrowhead-deaths-in-oklahoma/article/3721980

Schechter, Anna, for NBC’s Rock Center. Families Question Scientology-Linked Drug Rehab After Recent Deaths, http://rockcenter.nbcnews.com/_news/2012/08/16/13312825-families-question-scientology-linked-drug-rehab-after-recent-deaths?lite

Langton, Nicole, for LiveStrong.com. Is Too Much Niacin Bad For You? http://www.livestrong.com/article/511859-is-too-much-niacin-bad-for-you/

NIH Medline link: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/natural/924.html

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