The treatment is being aggressively pushed in the non-Scientology world by two organizations that sometimes work alone and sometimes in tandem. They have no formal church ties but both are controlled by church members.
One of these groups is the Los Angeles-based Foundation for Advancements in Science and Education. The nonprofit foundation has forged links with scientists across the country to gain legitimacy for itself and, thus, for Hubbard's detox method.
Among its key functionaries is a toxicologist for the Environmental Protection Agency, whose advocacy of the treatment has raised conflict-of-interest questions.
Building credentials and allies, the foundation has channeled tens of thousands of dollars in grants to educators and researchers studying toxicological hazards, most of whom were unaware of the organization's ties to the Scientology movement.
In 1986, for example, the foundation gave $10,000 to the Los Angeles County Health Department for a study of potentially harmful radon gas. County officials say they were not apprised of the organization's links with the Scientology movement.
Bill Franks was instrumental in creating the foundation in 1981 when he served as the Church of Scientology's executive director, a post from which he was later ousted in a power struggle. Franks described the foundation in an interview as a Scientology "front group."
"The concept," he said, "was to get some scientific recognition" for Hubbard's treatment without overtly linking it to the church.
Buttressing Franks' account, the foundation's original incorporation papers state that its purpose was to "research the efficacy of and promote the use of the works of L. Ron Hubbard in the solving of social problems; and to scientifically research and provide public information and education concerning the efficacy of other programs."
The document was later amended, however, to remove Hubbard's name, obscuring the foundation's ties to the Scientology movement and its founder in official records.
Hubbard's name, however, continues to appear regularly in the foundation's slick newsletter. In the latest edition, for instance, three different articles advocate the "Hubbard method" as an effective therapy for chemical and drug detoxification.
A fourth article did not mention Hubbard by name, but reported favorably on Narconon, his drug and alcohol rehabilitation program, which is run by Scientologists.
The other organization in the outreach effort is HealthMed Clinic, which administers Hubbard's treatment from offices in Los Angeles and Sacramento and is run by Scientologists.
An independent medical consultant in Maryland who reviewed the program for the city of Shreveport, La., dismissed Hubbard's treatment as "quackery."
The foundation and HealthMed have attempted to create an impression that they are linked only by a shared concern over toxic hazards. In reality, however, they operate symbiotically.
The foundation, for its part, tries to scientifically validate the Hubbard method through studies and articles by individuals who either are Scientologists or hold foundation positions. HealthMed then uses the foundation's credibility, writings and connections to get customers for the treatment.
According to state corporate records, the foundation also holds stock in HealthMed. Moreover, the foundation's vice president, Scientologist Jack Dirmann, has served as HealthMed's administrator.
In 1986, four doctors with the California Department of Health Services accused HealthMed of making "false medical claims" and of "taking advantage of the fears of workers and the public and about toxic chemicals and their potential health effects, including cancer." The doctors also criticized the foundation for supporting "scientifically questionable" research.
The state physicians, who evaluate potential toxic hazards in the workplace, leveled the accusations in a letter that triggered an investigation by the state Board of Medical Quality Assurance. That probe was concluded last year without a finding of whether the detox treatment works. Investigators said they were stymied by HealthMed's refusal to provide patient records and by a lack of complaints from those who had undergone the regimen.