Officials at three teenage drug treatment programs in Utah say increased abuse of LSD has become a reality among teenagers they treat, while another says that abuse of the drug is "almost non-existent."

James K. Smith, clinical director of the Dayspring program at Wasatch Canyons Hospital, said resurgent abuse of LSD and other hallucinogenic drugs began among local teens about two years ago. While it has reached a plateau, it still remains a persistent problem.Salt Lake Police Lt. Marty Vuyk, head of the Metro Narcotics Strike Force, told the Deseret News last week that undercover operations had shown increasing abuse among high school and junior high school teenagers.

It does not surprise Smith that police have found increasing use of the drug among youth. Of the patients treated in the Dayspring program, about three-quarters report using LSD. Of those, about 50 percent reported using LSD regularly.

"Of the drugs confiscated here, we confiscate more LSD than anything else," Smith said. He said the ability to hide the small "hits," or LSD-soaked stamps makes it popular contraband. He said the drug is most frequently associated with the "Punk Rock" culture.

Odyssey House's director, John Eden, and John VanDreal, coordinator at Charter Canyon Hospital in Orem, both said they have witnessed a similar resurgence.

The apparent resurgence follows several years of declining use in Utah, according to State Division of Substance Abuse reports. In 1976, hallucinogens including LSD were the third most abused drugs in the state. In 1983, the abuse of hallucinogens had dropped to 12th.

However, because of budget cuts, there have been no studies conducted during the past five years, officials said.

A Salt Lake drug psychologist said he doesn't dispute claims there is a resurgence in LSD use among teenagers, but from his perspective only a small percentage of teens experiment with the drug.

Dr. Michael DeCaria, a psychologist at Salt Lake County's Drug Referral Center, said, "It has gone from virtually non-existent to being barely significant." DeCaria takes drug histories of all youth involved in drug-related cases referred from the justice system.

"I think we may be like the proverbial Chinese men looking at the elephant. We are probably looking at things accurately and don't see the total picture," said DeCaria.

These counselors and police agree that while there has been an increase, there is no reason for hysteria. They agree LSD abuse is far overshadowed by abuse of other drugs, most significantly cocaine.

"I don't think there is an epidemic," Vuyk said.

Vuyk had disputed rumors circulated by local parent teacher associations and law enforcement agencies about stamps and tattoos. Fliers about the "LSD threat" often say that unsuspecting children could be the victims of drug dealers and that LSD can be ingested through the skin.

Dr. Elwood Loveridge, director of the Salt Lake County lab that often tests for drugs, said that LSD cannot be absorbed through the skin because it is not fat soluble.