It looks like you're using an Ad Blocker.

Please white-list or disable in your ad-blocking tool.

Thank you.


Some features of ATS will be disabled while you continue to use an ad-blocker.


Help ATS via PayPal:
learn more

The History of Synanon: Cult, Drug Abuse Treatment, or Visionary Society? PT. 1

page: 1

log in


posted on May, 23 2016 @ 07:58 PM
Greetings! This is the first of several posts I intend to write chronicling the history of Synanon and it’s impact on the modern theraputic community. My interest in this subject is both professional and personal. I grew up in Southern California, where Synanon was founded, and find it interesting that there are practically no operating theraputic communities in California. However, I have worked as a substance abuse counselor within a theraputic community in Texas for nearly two years.

For those of you unfamiliar with the therapeutic community, I have to explain a few key concepts before addressing Synanon. Substance abuse is a personal and societal problem that has been attributed to several contributing factors. Many competing and opposing “models” have been formed to explain drug and alcohol addiction, and for the sake of brevity I’ll list only a few: the medical model, disease model, psychological model, the moral model, and the social model. Each off these models have spawned a plethora of treatment methods with the same goal: to irradiate use in the individual addict.

The theraputic community is one of the oldest methods of substance abuse treatment. However, when compared to other modalities it has an intriguing and sordid history. Synanon was the first theraputic community in the United States. It was founded in 1958 by Charles Diedrich. Although for many decades Synanon was held in high esteem as a revolutionary method of cleaning up addicts, it is now universally viewed as a fanatic cult. However, the TC model is still used in hundreds of treatment facilities around the world, and Synanon is still regarded as the primary archetype for the TC. I cannot emphasize this enough, according to the modern “cult” view of Synanon, this is like having hundreds of organizations still operating by the rules that existed in Jonestown, or by the Branch Dividians in Waco. How and why this came to be is my fascination, and what I hope to discover. I am also earnestly hoping to reach out to any former members of Synanon that may stumble across this most. I would love to speak to anyone with first hand experience and hear their story.

The 1950’s: Fertile Ground
The history of Synanon is really the history of one man: Charles “Chuck” Diedrich. Diedrich was an active member of AA in the Los Angeles area during the late 1950’s. He was renown for his speaking ability in meetings, and was a popular figure in the recovery community. Drug use was increasing during this time, and many addicts who sought recovery in AA meetings were unwelcome. NA had an operating branch in California, but they were largely unorganized. Diedrich seized this as an opportunity and ventured to create his own treatment program that did not discriminate among addicts. In 1958, he incorporated Synanon.

The 1960’s: “The Game”
Synanon was originally founded as a two year residential rehab-like program (ironically, the rehab programI work at is exactly two years in length for clients). Many individuals were attracted to Synonon, and membership boomed during early years. It was in the early 1960’s that the structural groundwork for Synanon (and by proxy, all modern TC’s) was created by Diedrich and his cohorts. It was during this time that Diedrich came up with the concept for The Synanon Game.

Diedrich developed a belief system that everything in modern life was a game, people woke up and played the game of family and then the game of business/work. To Diedrich it was the products of the game that mattered. For instance, an individual who takes up tennis or football often doesn't play for the express goal of becoming healthy, they became heathy as an added benefit of playing. Diedrich understood that pain and difficulty often wrought better results than anything easy or cheap, especially for addicts. “The Game began with an idea I had of getting people together in a room to pursue a conversation with a "line of no line." I began to yell and curse and accuse and ridicule: I talked to everyone in the room as if he had a tail. Boy I felt great, and everyone else loved it too. The next week they all came back. That was the birth of the Synanon Game, which basically hasn't changed at all since 1958.” Therefore, the synanon game became a small group of people who met to discuss any and all issues that may arise.

These were the favored techniques of a Synanon game: 1) Defend vigorously; 2) Indict everybody; 3) Employ theatrics; 4) Tap into your own prejudices; 5) Use metaphor; 6) Exaggerate; 7) Lie; 8) Bring up old indictments; 9) Ridicule; 10) Allude to authority; 11) Allege subversion; 12) Involve several people in indictment; 13) Carrom shot.

Games were meant to be chaotic, over-the-top, and bizarre. Individuals were encouraged to indict and berate other game members regardless of validity. When the game ended, members of Synanon were expected to act civilly and cordially to one another, but when the game started, the only rule that applied was no physical violence. How, you might ask, does the help a recovering addict? Diedrich and the other founding members of Synanon developed what has been called the “red dot theory.” This theory asserts that all individuals have positive and negative thoughts and believes within their general schema of life. Addicts, however, have more negative thoughts than positive (negative thoughts: red dots, positive thoughts: white dots). Therefore addicts have a fundamental need to “purge” this inherent negativity through some means, and the game became an alternative means of achieving this without using. The game was the cornerstone of all life at Synanon. It dictated everything.

In 1967 Synanon purchased the Casa de La Mar, a beachfront hotel in Santa Monica. This became their primary base of operations. However, they also purchased other properties. Married couples lived at Synanon and children were reared within the community. During the late 1960’s, Diedrich changes his original concept of a two year program to a lifetime program, since an addict could not fully recovery. Synanon received a lot of positive press in the 1960’s, attracting even more desolate addicts to their doorstep. Soon, even non addicts became interested in their alternative way of life. Many high profile individuals from the era visited Synanon, including Ray Bradbury and even Timothy Leary. In 1970, George Lucas even utilized Syanon members as extras in his film THX 1138. He did so because many Synanon members had taken to the practice of shaving their heads (a particularly brutal address in a game was known as a verbal haircut, and some members took this literally as a sign of loyalty.)
The 1970’s: Along came a snake
Synanon was self-sustaining, and remained so through several business and vocational endeavors. The most prominent of these were promotional items (you know, the pens your company may order with their name on it). In 1976 Synanon was grossing $8.7 million, with estimated assets of over $30 million. This allowed Synanon to continue with little to no government regulations or oversight.

edit on 23-5-2016 by MarlboroRedCowgirl because: spellcheck

edit on 23-5-2016 by MarlboroRedCowgirl because: (no reason given)

posted on May, 23 2016 @ 08:04 PM
Forgive my ignorance but does this Synanon have any relation to Anonda? They are a cult out of southern cali that has ties to my area.

Good people, in my experience.

posted on May, 23 2016 @ 11:00 PM
Definitely sounds like a cult to me.

As a former addict, who used hard drugs daily for over a decade, I find the whole idea of a two year program ridiculous to begin with. It just doesn't take that long to kick something. Anything. I was able to quit without any outside intervention, and within 6 weeks or so, was back to functioning just fine without the drugs.

I've been clean for several years now. The temptation is still there, and occasionally I'll have fleeting cravings, but that's to be expected, and will probably last for the rest of my life, and no program can change that. I'd seriously question any sort of treatment program that lasted more than a few months.

posted on May, 23 2016 @ 11:13 PM
a reply to: AdmireTheDistance

The length our program is one of the elements that is complained about most. However, the company I work for also offers short term and detox services. Long term treatment is pretty much a "dying breed" in modern times because of insurance.

If it's any consolation, the clients who enter our long term program are supposed to be the most difficult, chronic relapsing client. It doesn't always occur that way, but some of our clients do truly need two years to get their life back on track.

posted on May, 23 2016 @ 11:27 PM
a reply to: MarlboroRedCowgirl

I'm not doubting you, as you clearly have far more experience from the other side of it then I ever will. Based on my personal experiences, I just think it's quite excessive, and would definitely question such a program.

I wasn't trying to say there are never any legitimate cases for such a program.

posted on May, 24 2016 @ 01:42 AM
Purging negativity. Where does it go? It sounds like they are possessed by dark entities and using black majik and chaos majik to generate an electrical cycle from the darkside. Once they engage in chaoticly insulting each other, it generates "something" but they use the word purge. So that could be seen as 'it' leaving them. Purge. Like verbal negative vomit. And let's assume the verbal negative vomit is in the air above them, like a blackened thought form filled with vomitus, 3 major things can happen. One, it falls right back and they absorb it back into themselves. Two, it just lingers as a darkside thought form and gets carried where ever the wind blows. Three, they are directing the darkside thought forms to go somewhere. In any case, the addiction cycle is still fed in them becoming addicted to the 'purge' and then relief; which is similar to 'using' drugs. One behavior is traded for another but it's the same team. Team darkside. Ask youself how they are able to generate negativity in themselves AGAIN to such a degree once "purged" to explode on each other with feral rants against each other, real or imagined? More than likely because of thought forms that are created by others globally to send any negativity/maliciousness back to the originator even if they don't know who the 'sender' is. Those thought forms are not malicious, they are merely protecting themselves and sending the "darkness" back to who ever sent it because it can be 'felt' - it's more of a refusing to accept mail and it gets sent back because they don't want to be near it or touch it or obviously open it, type of deal For good reason as it's energetic poison that is sensed by people world wide.

To believe in addiction and that it is powerful is a darkside mind set or falling into thrir trap. The dark side depends on addiction. It must claim with proof that it is powerful to empower itself. If no one believes drugs are addictive and instead looks at it as a pull of force playing with personal will power, the term 'addict' loses it's power and personal will becomes empowered. Once personal will is empowered people can discern if they are for the force of good or for the force of evil. That is ultimately up to them and not up to a label called 'addiction.' if people understood how powerful they are as a natural God made human being, they would empower themselves with believing in their creator and that both reside in each other and that their creator and they are good, not evil. Capable of loving and being loved. Capable of starting over and moving forward in a positive direction that benefits every one against evil.

If the darkside of drugs is to create addicts, then the darkside isn't letting them go with them acting out negativity using ego. If ego is used there is an agenda. The agenda is to be sober and drug free. With free being the wrong term because the term and belief in the power of addiction ties a long rope around their feet which they are casting the long rope out really hard into the darkside - but they are still tied to it. If ego isn't used in spewing verbal vomit then they are actors going through the motions and are dark entities that have over taken the human being that was there to leach off their energetic energy like parasites.

The only way out is a direct line with Jesus Christ as this is the Lord and Master who sits at the Right hand of God that is love who cuts the rope called addiction, who provides the fullness desired by people when their mind is led to believe it needs a drug because something is missing or they are over whelmed or they want an enhanced experience. Jesus Christ is for those not just addicted to drugs, but those addicted to anything that eliminates genuine human compassion for all human beings and for themselves which has love, grace, mercy, kindness and repentance folded into it. The genuine experience with Jesus Christ is not sacrificial for those who believe because Jesus Christ was that sacrafice already. It may appear to be sacrificial because one let's go of negative thinking that they have become used to and replacing it with positive thinking or they are living in a bad environment over whelmed by others drug use, abuse, abandonment, self absorbment, job hoarding, education hoarding, resource hoarding and financial hoarding. The goal is not to live in a compound community setting as that is a cage, but to live freely in a global setting manifesting the good kingdom within you.

The good side of drugs aids healing and good responsible drug use is revealed by it revealing healing in the one who ingested it to a better state not needing the drug anymore. If the drug use is said to be needed life long that means a cure needs to happen and worked on to be discovered or there is already a cure being kept away from all by the powers that be.

Many are walking on eggshells calling drug users out in a negative fashion or refusing to help them, including enabling. This is dangerous because while the intent is righteous, the caging in, insults or yelling directed at them, could lead to death by provoking rage in the user who hurts themselves or you. It is frightening getting to this point. This is why those who live with users should be rewarded for being sober such as nice private housing for them instead of shelters. They should be able to have their own peaceful house wothout fear of harrassment to give THEM relief. It's not just about the drug user needing to be safe, those living with them or around them need to feel safe in order to remain calm and be productive in their own life. That is hard to do.

posted on May, 24 2016 @ 07:29 AM
Nice thread. I have done some research on Synanon before.
Are you familiar with Pathway Family Center? It was a TC for teens, a decendant of Straight Inc. which I believe rose from the ashes of narcanon or Synanon or something similar..
I finished my programming in 1 year at pathway , which was considered quick at the time.
I believe pathway closed in 2006 ish due to abide allegations and like you said insurance was becoming an issue so so was funding... Good riddance!
Any who i did a lot of research on the place and the cultish brain washing tactics employed by them sounds very similar to Synanon feel free to ask if you have any question one day I would like to make a thread about pathway .


log in