It used to be taboo to insinuate that someone you knew was using drugs in Utah County.

Ned Jackson, a sergeant with Orem's Investigations Division who has worked with narcotics for the past five years, said times are changing and most well-known drugs are readily available in the area.Jackson, who spoke to parents at Orem's Cascade Elementary about drug use in Utah County as part of the Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) program parent's night, said the information was not meant to scare but to inform.

DARE is a 17-week program taught by Orem policemen to sixth-graders in local elementary schools to teach them how to avoid drugs and drug problems.

"In the last four years there hasn't been one year that we haven't arrested someone at each junior high in Orem for possession of drugs," Jackson said.

He said he has never documented drug possession at an elementary school yet, because "there is a big difference between junior high and elementary school," it is a transition time in a kid's life.

Jay Fletcher, one of Orem's officers who works with the DARE program, said the average age of first-time drug users across the nation is 12 to 121/2.

"And there is an average of two years before the parents find out about it," he said.

Also, Jackson said the peak use time for teens is during their ninth- and tenth-grade years.

Jackson told the parents that someone who was picked up for possession of drugs last week said he had made crack in someone's home.

"Up until then, I would have said you couldn't get crack in Orem," Jackson said. But the person accurately described the process for changing cocaine into a hardened, smokable form.

"This really scares me," he said.

Jackson said there is something else that scares him. When he goes into the schools to make presentations on drugs, he informally asks students if he gave them $100 how many could bring him some kind of drug within a day.

"Around 80 percent say they could," Jackson said. Yet other studies of Utah County show that only 15 percent of teens say they use drugs regularly. The drugs are there, he said.

Jackson told the parents that the best way to discourage drug use is to provide a good family atmosphere and to help their children choose good friends.

"Know who your kids are hanging around with," he said.

This is what the DARE program teaches kids how to do, Fletcher said. "Drug use is a symptom of other problems like self-esteem."



The price of addiction

The most-used drugs by Utah County teenagers and their approximate prices:

Marijuana $30 for 1/8 ounce

LSD $5 a "hit," a small stamp-size piece of paper soaked with the drug

Cocaine $80 a gram

Methamphetamine $80 a gram