Ian Johnson was a 2009 Park City High School graduate who died tragically of a drug overdose this July. Now his mother, Inka, is engaging the community to ensure both children and their parents are as educated as possible about the hazards of drug use.
At the time of his overdose, Ian had been working full-time and attending Salt Lake Community College. Johnson said Ian was a very giving person who was always loaning money to friends and giving them rides.
"People have this stereotype image of a drug user," Johnson said. "They're [actually] good people who, through their own mistake, became addicted. The addiction is a separate thing from the person."
Jayce Whiting was one of Ian's friends who said he "never thought [Ian] would do that kind of stuff." Both Whiting and Johnson think better drug education efforts need to be made on behalf of schools and parents.
"I really want to urge parents to talk to their kids more about drugs," Whiting said. "Rather than just saying, 'Drugs are bad, don't do them,' parents need to do their research."
Whiting said his parents spoke with him about the dangers and reality of drug use and, because of that, he has never wanted to try them.
Johnson said that schools need more specific education on drugs, teaching students the common names of drugs and what they do to one's body. She said she is working with the Park City School District on ideas for better drug education.
"They need to make [drug addiction] more real, more harsh," Johnson said.
Whiting echoed Johnson's sentiments, saying that friends and family of potential drug users need to be up front about drug use.
"If you have a friend and you know they're using or are in a dark spot, don't ask them, 'Are you OK?' Just be straight with them. Say, 'Are you using?'" Whiting said.
Johnson said that many of Ian's friends were concerned that he was hanging out with someone who was known to deal drugs, but didn't think that it could be too serious.
"Yes, in a way, it's [a drug addict's] business what they do, but if you're friends with them and you care about their life in any way at all, just say it," Johnson said.
Whiting added that Park City is a town in which, "If you don't have a lot of money, there's not much to do around here," and said that an arcade or a community center of some sort would be a great addition to keep young people's minds busy and away from drugs.
"Idle time is the devil's playground," Whiting said.
Johnson said that the affluence of many families in the community means that kids have more access to money to buy drugs, and Whiting added that many parents are not truly aware of how accessible drugs are.
"All it takes is a message on Facebook, and [drugs] are there for you," Whiting said.
Parents need to be more realistic about the possibility of their kids using drugs, Johnson said. She says they are often too afraid of what impact drug use could have on their kid's life to even wonder.
"They're not emotionally prepared to deal with that problem because of everything it entails," Johnson said. "They sometimes would rather not know."
"The youth and parents both need to learn more about [drugs]," Whiting said. "I want people to not be so oblivious to what's going on with the people around them."