‘From Healing to Horror’: Was Synanon, the Rehab Program that Became a Religious Movement, a Cult?

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Before there were organizations in place to help people with drug addiction, the landscape for people with these problems was harsh and unforgiving. In the late 1950s, Charles “Chuck” Dederich wanted to change that.

Dederich — who was open about being a member of Alcoholic Anonymous — wanted to create a similar program that helped people with drug addiction as well. In 1958, he founded the organization Synanon in Santa Monica, Calif.

The organization began as a rehabilitation program but turned into a religious movement known as “The Church of Synanon,” which was, in some ways, significantly ahead of its time. Dederich and the church promoted racial and class equality and an integrated society among the members. But as Synanon grew, so did Dederich’s power.

Eventually amassing more than 1,000 followers, Dederich began controlling people’s behavior, forcing vasectomies, abortions and divorces, encouraging women to shave their heads and promoting corporal punishment and violence.

Content retrieved from: https://people.com/synanon-fix-hbo-docuseries-rehab-program-accusations-cult-8619745.

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